The Mughal Emperor Akbar is depicted training an elephant; public domain

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela


Everyone feels the need to belong to someone or somewhere. Everyone has a history and needs a teacher to receive knowledge as ‘fear can be overcome by knowing.’  Hence the saying ‘knowledge is power’, but power for the cause of good and peace.

All Families have a history, some are historical themselves like the Kings, Rulers, Emperors and Leaders. There have been families in the History of Religion where we find the exemplary lives of the Messengers, their strength of character and the lessons they taught to their people. Histories have been written in royal courts and in this part of Asia, a good example is in the time of the Mughal Kings.

In the court of Emperor Akbar there were three scribes sitting with their quills, inkpots and papers writing all that happened in the court each day, what orders were issued what cases were heard and decisions taken. They recorded events, wars, births and deaths and weird happenings …worth remembering. So what is worth remembering in a kingdom a country and a family…a family history would include the same a family story. Stranger are the personal stories that happen all over the world. Many remain untold and unheard. By a stranger chance I was ordained to write one…

I too loved to have a family home town. A place I could say was my ‘village’, an old wooden house, a rough garden, a small yard and a cooking space smelling of freshly kneaded wheat and the sweet aroma of tea, cool evenings and summers under the shade of the trees or by a small stream. I was always asking questions about my birth place, our real home, what was the place like, where was it, who lived with us, how come we were there, from where did we get the fresh veges and how. So many questions kept troubling my mind but I got very few answers and so limited information. There was no record in any book or diary form. I wanted to know more about my ancestors but more so about what happened to bring us to another place?

I had strong reasons to take up my pen and trace words on paper, which were consolidated by the following guiding inspiring and most encouraging message I received:

If you really believe that what you’re writing is important, that what you’re writing right now could change someone ‘s life, then do it.

My need to belong made me ask questions of my father and mother but I never got a real chance to sit with my Grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Hasan, a prominent educationist, who I remember smoked the traditional Indian hookah’…had good command over the English language, knew a large body of Shakespeare’s plays by heart and loved to solve the crossword puzzles in one of the best English daily, The Statesman. The newspapers reflected English dominance.

“You were born in a dominion,” said my aunt one day. “We are Kashmiris. We left everything there.” Everything? “Yes. We had to save our lives as war had broken out and we had been blessed with a new country, Pakistan. We were extremely excited but events were not so grand nor safe, people were being killed.”  My family had dreamed, hoped, desired and prayed for the new green land to become our homeland but he would endlessly talk about Kashmir: the food, the rice, the tea, the cherries, the fresh weather … but all in memories some things remembered, some forgotten.

It really doesn’t matter whether the narrative is factually accurate or not. After all, memory distorts events from the past. Rather, the narrative becomes part of the family theme that takes on almost mythical dimensions. The oral tradition is the way stories, tales, myths and adventures have been handed from generation to generation from the beginning of time. Do you know your family narrative? If not, why not find out if family members can relate them to you now? It’s never too late. The fact is, remembered or not, we add to the narrative in the present to hand down to our children and grandchildren. And so a story of family life reflecting manners cultural traditions habits social customs and a mixture of Punjabi Kashmiri living routines…

Keeping my own high interest and spirit of inquiry, one day I sat down. My father was resting holding a paper and pen ready. I said quietly “Father please tell us about your journey to this newly created country?”

“Why do you want to know. It is not easy to talk about it now’

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” Mary Tyler Moore

Grandfather Maulvi Mohammed Hasan was born in 1892 in Jammu Kashmir. Migrated from Kashmir due to famine.

FAMINE?

Here I have brought in information about the Great Famine that caused many Kashmiris to leave their land. Many shifted to Amritsar Gujranwala in Punjab and to Sialkot near the border. Dr. Ernest Neve’ writes in his book Beyond the Pir Panjal Famine 1877-1879.

In some parts of the valley including Srinagar it is said that population reduced by more than half. Heavy rain fell in Autumn before the crops were gathered in. The rice and maize which are the staple foods, rotted.During the Winter the rains continued.The cattle died from want of food.”

Spring harvest failed due to bad weather. The authorities made a fatal mistake and ordered a house to house search for seed grain. People hid the seed grains for their own eating, this aggravated the situation. Famine continued until October 1879.

There is a Kashmiri saying

‘Haki’mas ta hakimas nishh- tachhtan khodayo’ O God save me from physicians and rulers’. 

The rulers heavily taxed the local people taking from their produce, earnings and wheat, etc., which left hardly anything for the peasant worker or the agriculturist. In the famine, people ate oil-cake, rice, chaff, bark of elm and yew and even grasses and roots. They became absolutely demoralized like ravenous beasts.  Those who died could be seen as corpses lying in the streets and open spaces, or pulled and dragged into holes where dogs kept wandering sniffing and eating.

Pestilence and cholera broke out and whatever edible stuff was available was extremely expensive, prices were sky high.”

1888-1892 Srinagar was a City of Dreadful Death it was previously known as the Venice of the East but now small pox spread all over killing many childre, thus child population became the most affected.

Father continued the historical story and I kept writing for long, till I realized that he was tired. “Yes, the Famine affected large areas of India.”

Pakistan it was afterwards, peaceful, till war broke out again…and so the story of migration kept moving through pain suffering with gaps of joy and peace and the solace of being together again, though in difficult times.

War broke out and all life changed again…there is so much more to share but for the moment here is my …

Song of Kashmir
Born in Freedom Chained
In Pure Dust, on Pure Earth she stands,
She never saw her Land;
The land where she was born
Heaven on Earth she was told
Pardise Lost! She realized
Cries of Freedom, freedom
She heard; coffins covered in black
She saw; no smiles on faces forlorn,
Clothes all tattered and torn
Hills and mountains, of greenery shorn;
Gone was the beauty of dewdrops
shining in the morn,
She brought the blood and the birth
She brought the life and the soul
And Hope, and the Unseen Dream
She never saw her Land
Why she was here, where she was
She could never own the name KASHMIR

© 2018, Anjum Wasim Dar

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