Tuesday, January 23, 2024




  ( Book Release function at Jammu on  20th January 2024 )

                            BOOK REVIEW                         



( Displacement And Identity ) 

 By Rohini Vaishnavi

Published by Bigfoot06 Publications (OPC) Pvt. Ltd.

Year of Publication …December 2023

ISBN: 978-81-968085-4-9

Price 250 ( available on Amazon )



Rohini Vaishnavi has done her Master's in Business Management from a prestigious European university. .After that , she has been in various leadership roles in the corporate world for many years . And now  she has   founded a content creation and brand communication agency . She is a columnist in the Times of India Opinion. She has also edited   ” The Chronicles of  Kashmir  “, a book by Bal Krishen Sanyasi , her father and a well-known Kashmiri poet. She belongs to the family of Pandit Amar Nath Vaishnavi,  the well-known  selfless leader of Kashmiri Pandits. She is directly connected with many Initiatives of  Amar Nath Vaishnavi Foundation , a social organization working for the  exiled Kashmiri Pandits .


Dedicated to Somawati Vaishnavi (her grandmother), this 127-page book consists of 5 stories titled, Yusuf, The Bedside Lamp, It Was Destined, Doon and Shireen. In Her Introduction to the book , Rohini writes this :-


“I understood the role that geography plays in shaping individual and collective identity only after I had to leave my birthplace forever, never to return. Though this book is a work of fiction , I have drawn  the emotions and situations from the lives of real people that I know of and some of it is my personal experience. I salute the resilience of this miniscule community which bounced back and started life from a scratch after the Exodus and always had faith in India and its democracy.”


The ‘Short Story’ technique gained great popularity in the world literature after the arrival of  writers like Guy de Maupassant, Nikolay Gogol, Leo Tolsty, Anton Chekhov and many more. Chekhov went ahead and broke the tradition of a well plotted-story. He was not interested in conveying dramatic happenings through his short stories though much is revealed about his characters and the quality of their lives. Unlike Maupassant, Chekhov focused on his characters using his perception, subtle humour and irony .The event was not important to him. He employed what is known as foreshadowing technique to convey human suffering, loss, helplessness, pathos and loneliness. His characters are breathtakingly relatable and lifelike. Unknowingly or knowingly , Rohini uses something like  Anton Chekhov’s technique to  convey  stories .Her stories revolve around intangible loss ,struggle for survival ,helplessness , suffering , relationships ,loss of culture and loss of identity; the issues that the Kashmiri Pandits  faced after being driven out from their motherland.


In the story Yusuf, Rohini uses Yusuf, a young boy to convey the loss of ‘Ghar-Devta’ for the Kashmiri Pandit exiles in the heat and dust of the plains of the country. Yusuf’s parents buy the house of an exiled Kashmiri Pandit where young Yusuf finds a picture drawn by one Avinash in his notebook with a note on Ghar-Devta and his miracles. Innocent Yusuf believes that the Ghar-Devta would certainly help to save his ailing mother, Khadija.The story of Ghar-Devta is woven in a style that is profoundly relatable for the readers from the Kashmiri Pandit community. The story also recalls the greedy brokers who followed Pandit exiles in their tents and camps and used all types of pressure forcing them to sell their property for peanuts.

 Similarly in the story, ‘The Bedside Lamp’, Neena’s longing to revisit her home in Kashmir results in her kidnapping .Shafi the  captor , despite speaking the same language and being from a  similar cultural background , fails to demonstrate human empathy and warmth. And Shafi (who is now the Area Commander of a terrorist group ) was closely known to Neena’s family during the days when peace prevailed in Kashmir. He was their neighbour. Finally,  Neena walks to her freedom only after the sudden  army  crackdown that makes her captor run for life. Similarly in the story, ‘It Was Destined ’ the reader finds a similar situation when a Kashmiri Pandit family revisit their house .When Sarita revisits her house, she finds everything changed. She recognises Majid, the new occupant of their house. Thirty years back, Majid , the truck driver had informed Sarita that her sister had been shot dead.


‘Doon’ is another story full of nostalgia, pathos and suffering. Doon  or walnut is symbolic of Kashmiri culture. The walnut was a binding force in the composite culture of Kashmir especially during Shivratri festivity. In the story, Ashwini is a Bangaluru-based  Kashmiri Pandit engineer whose mother  died in a Jammu hospital of some unknown ailment in 1996, a time when Ashwini was completing his BE degree from a Pune college. Kashinath , his father lived a lonely life in one room in Jammu after the death of his wife. Kashinath’s lonely life in the room brings back the painful memories of sufferings of every  Kashmiri Pandit in Jammu after being thrown out from the valley . Kashinath goes to live with Ashwini ( who has married Sunayna ,a Kannad  girl) in Bangluru and decides to celebrate Shivratri with walnuts the way he used to do when Shobha, his wife was alive. Sunayna cooperates happily .Sahil, Ashwini’s son also gets connected to walnuts that he sees in California where he moves permanently after completing his education. Doon fascinates Kashinath, Ashwini and even Sahil who lives in California. Kashinath suffers from dementia and Sunayna is all happy to pass on the cultural importance of Doon to the German girl who is now Sahil’s companion . The story is woven into incidents and situations that bring painful nostalgia and a profound sense of loss .


The last story is a moving tale of two young hearts, two lovers ;  Vikram and Shireen who face the sudden onset of brutal terrorism that changes the course of their lives and shatters all dreams. While reading the story, I was reminded of Sahir Ludhianavi’s poem ‘Parchhaiyaan’ or Shadows. Sanjay and Raksha , common friends  of Vikram and Shireen too are dumbfounded with this sudden change in the peaceful environment in the valley. The story is woven around the killing of Tika Lal Taploo , bomb blasts and kidnappings. The situation at that time was a clear  signal  to  the Pandits and other minorities living in the valley. Allama Iqbal has summed up this situation in his poetry as under:-

“Chhupa  kar aasteen  mein  bijliyaan rakhi  hain  garduun ne

Aanaadil   bagh ke  gaafil  na baithen  aashiyaanon  mein

Wattan ki  fikr kar  nadaan museebat aanewaali hai

Teri  barbaadiyon ke  mashware hain  aasmaanon  mein.”


(The arched sphere has concealed lightning in its sleeve,

Let not the nightingales of the garden sit carefree in their nests,

Oh, the ignorant! Think of your homeland, the tragedy waits in wings,

                          Consultations for your destruction are being held in the skies.)


And then these characters live through the horrible night of 19th January, 1990. Thereafter, silence and

suspicion become the way of life for Kashmiris that include Omkar Nath and Sheela , parents of Shireen .This was the period when neighbours turned strangers .A period when the season of exile had set in .Leaving everything behind , Kashmiri Pandits run to the plains of the country to save their lives and honour using every available mode of transport. Shireen was studying in Mumbai while whereabouts of Vikram’s family were unknown. None knew where did they go and how they were. And Shireen kept looking for Vikram in the refugee camps, in the long queues to collect tap water, in the tattered tents and anywhere and everywhere.


( Review of the book published in the Daily Excelsior on 18th February, 2024)

The book invokes an intense feeling of collective loss and uprooting. These stories are also a great effort towards documenting what befell a peace-loving community. I have every reason to believe that such stories will be read as the ‘history of the sufferings of a community’ by  posterity .


 ( Avtar Mota )


 Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

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