Friday, June 25, 2010

The Lure of the Land – Some stories from Poonch

The connection to the land is natural and unbreakable. We may go away for a multitude of reasons but it is easier to snip off the umbilical cord than cut away the tie which binds us to our villages and towns and cities….to the land of our forefathers. I have known this for a fact and experienced it at close quarters, having lived quite a nomadic life, traveling far and wide. Nothing can beat the pleasure and ‘the heart will burst’ kind of happiness when I come back “home”….to my home state of Jammu and Kashmir.

I saw this emotion amply reflected in the stories I heard this summer during my trip to Poonch. Poonch is also known as Chhota Kashmir and aptly deserves the title, for the regions beauty and splendour are breathtaking. As I traveled by road I repeatedly asked myself as I crossed vales and mountains that how could one ever leave this place and be really happy. The majestic Pir Panchal range in the backdrop, forests, and gurgling streams, crisp fresh air, rugged men and the beautiful women and children…all pulled at my heart strings. I gasped and sighed when I saw the Surankote valley and was left speechless as I entered the town of Poonch.

The history of the region left me intrigued and my fascination with the place increased. Poonch has also been called the battlefield of Kashmir since many rulers who staked a claimon Kashmir had to fight it out in the Poonch valley. There is a book by the same name “Poonch – “The Battlefield of Kashmir” by Mr. Maini a Poonch local which is a must read for all those who want to know more about the history of this region.

I met many people from various backgrounds and the common underlying theme with all of them was a desire to live peacefully and harmoniously. Not one of them was untouched by militancy and the politics of the region. Landmines in the adjoining hills, militant hideouts in the hills of Mendhar, friends and neighbors crossing over to Pakistan, the bloody guerilla warfare, and the infamous ‘Operation Hill Kaka’ to flush out ISI operatives and militants. Obviously the region is considered sensitive and the existing peace fragile.

Considering that it is a land of Saints and Sufis it is a crying shame. This is a land which is abound by similar yet different testaments to the Almighty…Buddhe Amarnath, Nangli Sahib, Shahdara Sharief to name a few. I visited all three and found them equally moving.

Who could leave such a place and yet some did. Some of them at least whose stories I heard have become refugees in their current country of choice, realizing too late that they became victims of propaganda, pressure and trends of their community and a falsely created fear psychosis. The DC/DM of Poonch Shri Kuldip Khajuria told me that there were people who have come back to Poonch on visitor visas and have had to be literally forced to go back after they exhausted their stay limits that too after extending their visas and stay as many times as legally possible.
Many have openly said that they are worse off in Pakistan occupied Poonch economically and socially. This fact was quite clear in my visit to the LOC. One could clearly see ‘kuchha’ houses across the border compared to the modest but pucca houses on our side of the hills. The Principal of Sheesh Mahal School (the oldest girl’s school in Poonch) told me about an ex-student who visited from POK. The ex-student said that they were fed with stories of persecution of Muslims in India by the Pakistani officials. They were told that the Muslim population was denied the right to education and debarred from offering Namaaz and going to the mosque. Upon hearing from the Principal that in a school of 300 plus girls, there were only 35 Hindu girls, the man broke down and cried in the school assembly organized in his honor.

We were saddened to hear that one of my mother’s muslim neighbor and friend moved to Pakistan in the 70’s. He visited Poonch his place of birth many times once it was possible to do so. Common friends told us he regretted his decision all his life and died a heartbroken man.

Some ties bind us all our lives and there is a love which is equal if not greater than the other facets of love and that is a love for our land. A love which blurs the differences in religion and unites us on the common grounds of language, cultural practices, folk lore, dance, music, literature and so much more. It is for the individual to understand this fundamental truth and the politics to let it be.

26 comments:

江婷 said...

在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」......................................................................

吳思 said...

pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!!.................................................................

Pranab said...

Love, I suppose inevitably, is an ambiguous word. Am I in love with my place. Confuses me, but yeah I am intensely attached to it. General thinking is that human connections could only be attached to other living beings, but life experiences could teach you otherwise. I had this thing realised when I returned back to my hometown after the longest stay away till now. As I stepped out of the airport, I got onto the public transport to reach home. As the bus I boarded drove through the city streets, I found myself staring at the sides of the road continuously ..Its was like meeting a known person after a long time and me trying to identify how much s/he has changed from the last time we met and then I felt excited about every change I could register.

I can't forget to mention that language is an invisible yet, one of the strongest bonds between an individual and the place its spoken, and individuals from the same place. I was once at the farthest end of India I could be from my hometown. I came across a guy who was from the same place as me. To my surprise he could speak in mother tongue as we started to converse, I realised the language forged an instant connection between two strangers.

育財育財 said...

幸福不是一切,人還有責任。............................................................

Sarmast said...

It was a pleasant surprise to find this piece on Poonch.

You are absolutely right about one thing. A Poonchi will never be happy if he is not in Poonch!

Our firm belief in brotherhood has helped us sail through troubling times. Even today you will find more Hindus and Sikhs than Muslims at the Urs of Sain Illahi Buksh Sahib of Loran. Do remeber to visit it if you go there again. Loran valley is more beautiful than anyplace you'll see in Poonch.

History has not been kind to us, but nobody minds that here.. I remember something a poet friend from Poonch mostly quotes:

Mitti ki muhabbat mein, hum aashufta sirron ne,
Wo qarz utaray hain jo waajib bhi nahin thay!

育隆 said...

安一估~你也安一估哦~............................................................

Chrysalis said...

Pranab: I agree place and language have such magnetism. again you have put it so beautifully

@Sarmast: I am excited and intimidated that a Punchi is reading this...:)
I hope I have done justice to a land so beautiful and a people so nice. I am aware now of its complicated and history and pray for peace and harmony there.
I did visit Loran Valley and fell in love with it :)

Sarmast said...

@ Chrysalis.. u did a wonderful job..

JasonBirk佳琪 said...

有用的才華若不用,便如同日晷儀放在陰暗之中............................................................

云依恩HFH謝鄭JTR安 said...

Of two evils choose the least.............................................................

芸茂芸茂 said...

教育無他,愛與榜樣而已............................................................

黃惠雯 said...

世間唯一永恆的,就是改變..................................................

江桂宸江桂宸 said...

從來愛都不知它的深度,非得等到別離的時候.................................................................

洪瑋婷洪瑋婷 said...

[做人難,人難做,難做人] 人.事的艱困與磨難,是一種考驗!要以樂觀歡喜之心,很珍惜地過每一天!^^..................................................................

琬安琬安 said...

世間事沒有一樣沒有困難,只要有信心去做,至少可以做出一些成績。..................................................

林宜欣 said...

別人短處,掩蓋幾分;別人過失,包容幾分。..................................................

DaniloM_W志竹olff0615 said...

跟您打聲招呼,願我們大家都更好!!..................................................................

建依萍彰 said...

你不能決定生命的長度,但你可以控制它的寬度..................................................................

家唐銘 said...

Man proposes, God disposes..................................................................

冠賴伶冠賴伶冠賴伶 said...

好的開始並不代表會成功,壞的開始並不代表是失敗..................................................

文王廷 said...

唯有用熱情、用智慧去觀察事物,這事物才會把他的秘密,洩漏給我們......................................................................

文瓊王王慧山 said...

我從來不認為不同意我的看法就是冒犯................................................

慧佳蓉佳蓉桓 said...

培養健全孩子最好的方法是父母先成為健全的人。......................................................................

翊翊翊翊張瑜翊翊翊 said...

No pains, no gains..................................................................

佳張張張張燕張張張張張 said...

Many a true word is spoken in jest..................................................................

黃英吳思潔吳思潔邦 said...

如果你批評他人。你就沒有時間付出愛......................................................................