Table of Contents
   About the Author
   Part I: Growing Up
   Part II: Householder
   Part III: More Travels
   Part IV: Reflections
   Family Pictures
   Comments from Critics
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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Part III - More Travels

Stopping rain,
milking a wooden cow---
all this is deceitful exhibition.
--- Lalla

Section 43

Kulgam, the seat of the Tehsil, is on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, six miles south of the district seat at Anantnag. In my new position at Kulgam I oversaw staff at various centres. There were three units: Bijbehara, Shopian and Dambal Hanjipora, a place across Vaisho river. Bijbehara, Vijabror in Kashmiri, on the highway and the Vitasta river, has a magnificent park of ancient chinar trees. It was the ancient tirtha to Vijayeshvara, from which it derives its name. The Nehru family traces its ancestry to this town. In the olden times it was an important stage town in the pilgrimages to Amarnath and to the sun temple at Martand.

The block development officer at Kulgam shared supervisory powers on the activities of the staff. The district commissioner had authority over developmental activities also. There was a lot of talk of making plans and checking the progress inspired, no doubt, by theories copied from the Russian and Chinese communists. We met monthly to see how things were going.

I purchased a bicycle and was generally on tour inspecting the work of the field staff. But we were mainly padding numbers to look good on paper with the result that the quality of the work went down.

A big cattle show, at the state level, was held at Tral. I rode there on my bike, a distance of thirty six miles. On the sixth day, I rode to Srinagar twenty three mile on. From there, I rode another twenty six miles to Shopian to conduct an inspection. From Shopian to Kulgam is almost entirely downhill and hardly any pedalling was needed to reach back home.

This was the time that a lot of construction was going on in the veterinary department of the valley. Of the four centres under my supervision, the best buildings came up at Kulgam; the contractor was an old, honest Pandit.

Avinash was now in the middle school, located on the plateau above the town. Subhash was in the fourth grade in the primary school half a mile away. Earlier at Udhampur, Subhash got a double promotion by appearing in the second and third grades together. I discovered that the school had no math teacher for the fourth grade and Subhash held these classes for the entire session. When the results of the annual examination came out Subhash was shown as having passed, without any distinction. One day I saw the Headmaster and I questioned him about the result. He replied that if I wished he would privately acknowledge that Subhash had stood first. He explained further that he was advised by his superiors that no Pandit boy be shown as having stood first because that entitled the boy to a scholarship. I suppose this was a result of the thinking amongst the leftist intellectuals, who decided policy throughout India but especially Kashmir, that the children of the poor should be helped; in actual practice, this good thought was perverted in countless ways.

The person supposed to inspect meat and milk was the medical officer. As a result he received free milk and meat and the rest of the townspeople put up with adulterated milk. The tehsildar, being the chairman of the town development committee, was also in league with the medical officer.

The residents of Kulgam were very unhappy with this and their anger boiled over when the milkmen raised their prices. There were complaints and a meeting was called to fix the prices of milk in the classic Soviet style. I argued that this should not be done because the price reflected the increase in the costs of the feed for the cows. I argued that the market should decide the prices but we should be strict with the quality of the milk. Fortunately, my view prevailed and I became a sort of a hero to the milkmen although I had hounded them with my checks on quality with a lactometer.


Section 44

Because of an uproar against the veterinarian in Baramulla, I was posted back there in the middle of 1956. The previous doctor had conducted vaccination against the Ranikhet disease which, instead of protecting the animals, made them sick. Whole flocks perished. Perhaps the vaccine was not properly manufactured and attenuated; now the poor doctor had to pay the price.

The state minister for our department was Harbans Singh Azad and the doctor was related to him. They both belonged to a landowning Sikh business class and the doctor also ran the business of a bus line between Srinagar and Uri. Until he retired, the doctor's postings were at different places on this line. Anyway, after the mishap with the vaccine the villagers were so enraged with him that they wished to lynch him. Thanks to the minister's connection he was whisked away under police protection. This posting for me was supposed to be a stop-gap arrangement as after the winter I was asked to go to Leh. More about that later.

In Baramulla, I moved into an old house attached to the old dispensary. Since my last posting here, a new hospital was built next to the police station. The building was nice looking and modern. The town was still amongst the cleanest in the valley and, during summer, breezes from the gorge cooled it. I had just reached the town with the family that I found a telegram waiting asking me to tour the region of the ceasefire line in Uri to control an epidemic. After the vaccinations in Uri, I sought permission from the Area Commander to enter the prohibited area; this was denied, and so I returned. I alighted from the bus at the old dispensary building where I had left Sarojini and the children. I entered the building and found it abandoned. I was worried and rushed to the new building a mile or so further down and found Sarojini and the children there.

In my absence, Sarojini concluded that the Old Dispensary building, which was isolated and far from the town, was not safe. She took over one room and the adjoining kitchen in the new building and crammed everything into it. This room was meant for the owners of animals brought in for major operations. There was a hall attached to these rooms which had a sandy pit in the middle where the casts on the animals were placed. Two adults and five children in a room and a kitchen was very crowded indeed.

My staff did not like my stay on the premises as it checked their pilferage of the rations meant for the bulls and the chickens. They mailed several anonymous complaints to the deputy director.

We did not have a water tap connection in our kitchen, so the water was brought in buckets from the police buildings. I hired a servant to do so but my staff scared him away. Then I issued orders to the lower staff, the attendants, to take the bulls for exercise six miles by a village road and that I would follow them on a bicycle. Within four days the staff came round and became cooperative, and I let the bulls to be exercised in the compound itself.

Three months later, the director and the deputy director stopped over at Baramulla on return from a tour of Uri. Sarojini cooked many snacks for them. I explained why I was compelled to take up lodgings in the premises. The director decided then to make the building the official residence after the big operation hall had been converted into two liveable rooms. Our stay in Baramulla from that point on became quite pleasant.

Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly drafted a Constitution that was to go into effect from the 28th January 1957. Pakistan protested vociferously and rumours circulated that tribals from the Pakistani occupied Kashmir will, in a repeat of 1947, attack to prevent the implementation of the Constitution. These rumours were stoked by very bellicose statements on the Pakistani radio. Businessmen on the route from Uri to Srinagar began to clear their inventories and many folks sent their families to Srinagar or the interior.

The district industries inspector lived across the road with his brother, who worked in the post office. They were considering sending their valuables to Srinagar. Sarojini was also scared and she wished to send her jewelry to Srinagar. I calmed her by arguing that if all of us were killed the valuables would mean nothing.

The evening of the twenty eighth, the power house at Mohora, near Uri, failed and the town was plunged into darkness. The fear deepened until a convoy of military trucks carrying the Dogra Regiment passed through the bazaar with their war cry of ``Jai Durga Ki". This resounding cry dispelled the gloom and it appears the Pakistani agents in the villages slunk back to their bases. We were glued to the radios until the electricity failed. But a friend owned a battery set and we were reassured by the nine o'clock news bulletin that said that everything was normal and there were no border crossings.

Avinash was to appear in his eighth grade examination. I stayed awake with him during his preparation at nights, and he secured good marks. Didda had been laid up in bed with heart trouble. I saw her in Srinagar as often as I could. Tika Lal Vali, her son-in-law, and her daughter Kamala were taking good care of her.

My laboratory officer asked me to select a village where there was no previous vaccination against the rinderpest disease. The Izzat Nagar veterinary institute had developed a new attenuated vaccine that they wished to check out; this was to replace an older vaccine that had caused the epidemic. I chose a village near Uri and the animal owners agreed to the tests. A few of us met the village numberdar and arrangements were made for volunteers to hold the animals. The next day I attended my office until three in the afternoon and then cycled to the village. As the droves of animals were returning from their grazing we made them pass through an open space where I did some very fast vaccinations. The research officer was so impressed that he wished me to join the rinderpest disease control office. I kept around for three days to check for adverse reaction and there was not any. I was again sounded on working in the rinderpest unit but I said I would do so only if I was made the chief of that unit. It appears that position was reserved for some other doctor.


Section 45


 In April 1957, I received an order from the development commissioner to go to Leh immediately. I was to be at the airport at eight in the morning the next day.

Leh was considered a hardship posting. The capital of Ladakh, this town is situated at an altitude of 11,500 feet. Ladakh district is about half the area of the state; it is very sparsely populated and a majority of the Ladakhis are Buddhists. The political history of Ladakh has been traced back to about 1000. Being situated on the crossroads of the silk and pashmina routes between Central Asia, Tibet, Kashmir, and Punjab, Ladakh has seen its share of drama, romance, and adventure. It is conceivable that the earlier inhabitants of the Ladakh valley were Dards and the Tibetan stock became intrusive later on. The interaction between Ladakh and Kashmir has been seen to go as far back as accounts are available. Buddhism was spread into Tibet by the Indian sage Padmasambhava. A second influence went there through Kashmir in what has been called the second spreading of Buddhism into Ladakh and Tibet about a thousand years ago. Evidence about this spreading is preserved in the wall paintings that have been discovered in the gompa (monastery) of Alchi, about forty two miles downstream the Indus from Leh. These seven or eight hundred year old wall paintings are in a style that is unique and might be the sole representative of the Kashmiri style of its times.

Ladakh's last independent king was defeated by Zorawar Singh, the famous Dogra general, in 1834. Ladakh was the only direction that Ranjit Singh's Sikh empire could expand by virtue of a treaty he had signed with the British is 1809. Under this treaty, the Sikhs were free to do as they wished north of the Satluj river.

In spite of its bleak mountainous terrain, Ladakh was an attractive conquest, because it lay on important trade route connecting Tibet, through which pashmina wool was imported into Kashmir.

Zorawar Singh took the route of Kishtwar and Zanskar to invade Ladakh. He spent the winter midway to Leh. The Ladakhis attacked in the spring, but were routed. Next, Zorawar Singh annexed Baltistan.

The Ladakh kingdom had an old claim on west Tibet. Zorawar Singh was now ordered by his king Gulab Singh to seize this region. He set out in 1841 and was soon in control of Mansarovar and Kailas. But that winter his force was challenged by a much larger army of the Tibetans and the Dogras were defeated. Thus ended the dream of a greater Jammu and Kashmir.

Leh was not yet connected by road to Kashmir; this road had been under construction for years and many engineers and ministers had made fortunes by showing fictitious work. (The road was later built by the army.)

We received double salary at Leh, and under rules a person was given twenty four days as joining time on transfer. The order to leave for Leh at such short notice was not fair. Perhaps because of this I overslept and then, instead of going to the airport, I went to the development commissioner's residence. I explained to him that I was unable to reach the airport as I did not find transportation. He was very angry; I returned home very dejected.

Sarojini and the children at Baramulla were overjoyed to see me return. But with the mishap I was prepared for the worst. I obtained school leaving certificates for the children and then came to Srinagar to see if I could get my order cancelled. Didda was in a very bad state and horoscope readers said that if she survived till October she will live another five years. Avinash and Subhash said they would accompany me to Leh while Sarojini and the other children would wait out the period of prediction. The whole family could not have come back from Leh in the event of Didda's death.

Those days the state government chartered Dakota planes to transport supplies to Leh. The planes also carried government passengers. I started making rounds of the various offices to secure seats for Avinash, Subhash and me.

I still remember the grand view of the glacier clad mountains from the plane; to the left of the flight route was Nanga Parbat. We arrived in Leh in two hours. The town presents a sight very different from any in Jammu or Kashmir provinces. For both men and women the standard dress is that of a goncha, which is a woollen coat that goes around the body. In earlier times no underclothing was worn beneath the goncha, but when we were in Leh the goncha was worn as an overcoat over normal set of clothing.

At the airport I hired pack yaks to carry our baggage and we walked. We entered the town by the main gate that opens on the bazaar and on the left was the building that housed the veterinary dispensary, the inspectorate and my office; the back side of this building had the residential units. Gopi Nath Safaya, the inspector, was an excellent host while we were settling in. The next day I spent in securing ration cards and the setting up of the kitchen.

The first things I did was to order gonchas for all of us. The boys were admitted into the school which was just behind the dispensary. Since there was not much work at the dispensary I was asked to supervise the cattle farm at Murtse.

The children and I did the cooking while the cleaning was done by an attendant. A Kashmiri captain of the Leh Garrison was very helpful when it was the turn of the rest of the family to come. He declared the Sarojini was related to her; this allowed her and the children and the baggage to come by the army Dakota free of charge. I went to the airport with some pack animals for the baggage and a military jeep for the passengers.

I was invited to a party that evening and I returned late. Sarojini was very upset at my going to a party on the first day of her arrival. I begged her to forgive me.

Now we settled into a routine. We asked Gopi Nath Safaya to eat with us until his family joined him.

The rice from the ration shop ran out and we were now issued wheat flour. Sarojini was very unhappy that we had to eat chapaties both times. Shivaratri was nearing. The government now sent one full bag of rice to be distributed amongst the Kashmiri Pandits. The distribution was to be done by the Pandits themselves. I volunteered and paid for the whole bag in full. I was to distribute the rice at five kilos a person. I could sell only one fourth of the bag. Most of the Kashmiri Pandits worked for the public works department and they did not come to receive their share, perhaps because they did not need it.

Sarojini ate her lunch between twelve and one; Avinash would smell the cooking from the school and run over to eat with her. Our rice lasted till the mountain passes opened in the spring and the regular supply of rations resumed.

The climate of Leh is very dry and healthful. But once the flu virus was brought there on an airplane. In our family everyone except Neeraj were laid up in bed for days.

In the spring Gopi Nath Safaya's wife and son Deep arrived. We had great company; the children had another friend.

I took up the project of improving the quality of the livestock in the Ladakh area. My first project was to remove from breeding all the decrepit bulls in the town. I went to the grazing ground and with the help of the people in attendance had the weak bulls castrated. After a week, the president of the local National Conference party complained to Gopi Nath Safaya that since I had castrated the animals without permission I was liable to pay for the injury to any animal, adding that a bull was dead. I agreed to pay if the post mortem report proved that castration was responsible for the death. I assumed this complaint was a phoney one to make me slacken off and to get some money off me. Sure enough, they were not able to produce the allegedly dead animal.

In the villages the dzo, a hybrid of the male yak and the common cow, is used to draw the plough. The dzomo, the female dzo, is not sterile but its offspring does not survive. The common drink is chang, best described a fermented barley water.

To keep its population in check, Ladakhis devised a system of fraternal polyandry. The eldest brother in a family was accepted as the heir to the property, and one or more of the others was packed off to a gompa to train as a lama. The brothers who chose to remain in the family house were all considered to be married to the wife of the eldest brother. All the children from such a marriage were taken to belong to the eldest brother, who was addressed as the `big father', the other brothers being `little fathers.'

In Ladakh, the Buddhists do not kill animals but they eat dead animal flesh. On the high plateau of Changthang the shepherds skin the dead sheep and goats and hang the cleaned meat to dry in the frigid air. When there is no dead animal around and they need meat, they bind up the muzzle and the legs of the animals and leave it in the open to starve and choke to death, but they do not draw blood. It is possible that a bull had died and its meat was already cooked and eaten.

Next I selected a village in the marsh about eight miles from Leh for liverfluke control. This disease was rampant in the area but the villagers were quite reconciled to the dying of their animals. I selected a few shaggy, decrepit sheep and asked the owners for their prognosis for these animals to survive the winter. I told them further that they must have seen worms in the livers amongst such dead sheep in the past. They now agreed to my medicating ten of the worst sheep, which we later marked. In early spring I returned to the village and found people happy that their animals were still alive. Now all the villagers wanted their flocks to be given preventive medication and this was done routinely as long as I was in Leh.

Gopi Nath Safaya went on leave in the autumn of 1958 to arrange for his transfer back to the valley. He was unsuccessful and returned in the spring.

Avinash took and passed his matriculation examination. It was decided to send him to Babuji in Kapurthala for his junior college. I could not arrange for him to join college in Srinagar; Leh had no college. Subhash did his middle school; in Sanskrit and other subjects he secured hundred percent marks.

The government approved the setting up of a Pashmina goat farm at Murtse. Rooms were built at the farm to house them. The goats did fine in winter but as the summer advanced the goats, who were used to grazing in the open at thirteen to fifteen thousand feet, were affected badly by the closed air of the rooms and the lack of exercise and they started dying. The farm manager was unable to develop a proper administrative system for the animals. The area was infested by wolves and without proper security the goats were liable to be killed by the wolves. Also the attendants could steal the goats and claim that the wolves had lifted them. Because of the high mortality the project was declared unviable.

The Ladakhi gompas provide a window on the religious life of the region. Unfortunately, in 1600 or so Ali Mir, the Muslim ruler of Skardo overran Ladakh and destroyed most of its religious treasures, one place that escaped being Alchi. Most of the old Ladakhi gompas are thus only about four centuries old. Ladakhis follow Vajrayana Buddhism which in some ways is similar to Kashmiri tantrism. Two gompas very close to Leh include Sankar where Kushak Bakula, the chief Lama of Ladakh resides, and his formal seat at Spituk, five miles down the Indus from Leh. Up the Indus, about nine miles from Leh, is Shey, the ancient capital of Ladakh, with its gompa. The most famous one, and the richest, is Hemis gompa, where an annual two-day festival is held.

The traditional summer pastimes in Ladakh are archery and polo. The archery meets are a great party, with interludes of dancing, where chang is consumed in great quantities. Polo is indigenous to Baltistan and the greater Himalayan region; the British learnt it in India and introduced new rules. In Leh, polo was played according to traditional rules. The biggest games were played in the Leh bazaar.

I got my transfer to Anantnag in early 1959. I missed leaving Leh where I saw much camaraderie and people showed concern for each other.


Section 46


 This town gets its name from its great spring and temple to be found at its southern end. At the northern end of the town, on the way to Bhavan or Mattan, is the temple of Gautamnag. Mattan is a famous tirtha and up the plateau behind it are the famous ruins of Martand, the magnificent sun temple built by Lalitaditya.

The Anantnag dispensary had a stud bull and chicken. The tradition here was for the owner of a sick animal to report the symptoms of the disease and receive medication. The entries in the outdoor register were generally false just to show a great number of cases. The poultry demonstration unit had ten Rhode Island Red hens and one cock. The idea was to sell the eggs to the farmers at nominal rates so that when hatched these would improve the genetic quality of the local chicken. I asked the compounder to show me the records of the eggs produced and the sales. All he had was a notebook showing the feed given to the chicken but no record of the eggs. Upon further questioning, he revealed that no farmers came to buy the eggs and so he had written to the deputy director for permission to sell the eggs in the open market. Instead of replying, the deputy director arrived in person and took all the eggs for himself without giving any receipt.

I now wrote to the deputy director that the hens had lost all vitality and they should be sold to the farmers. This proposal was accepted. The sale of the chicken eliminated the corruption in the feed arrangement. The contractor had never sent the full quota of the greens and grain and so the chicken were ill fed. Everyone from the contractor down was in the scheme to defraud the government and starve the animals. The contractor's supplies for the breeding bull were erratic, but he had the audacity to submit bills for the missed deliveries as well. I refused to pay him for what was not delivered and this irritated him. He sent several feelers to me about giving me a share as was the custom. The deputy director was also a part of this rotten system. I wrote many letters to the deputy director arguing for the dismissal of the contractor but I did not receive any reply.

In the breeding programme, it was customary for the owner to pay one rupee of which the veterinarian would keep fifty paise, the senior compounder twenty five paise, and the rest was shared by the attendants. I issued instructions that I did not need my share and the staff could divide the money amongst themselves provided the bull was fed properly and exercised. The staff liked this and the condition of the bull improved.

In the month of September 1959, I was walking on the road outside our hospital that I saw a flock of sheep that had come down from the highland pastures. There were some very weak animals in the flock. To catch the attention of the farmer, I told him that, by looking into the eyes of the sheep, I could see worms in their livers and death within four months. This interested him and he wanted to hear the pathological symptoms at death. When I recounted these he was very excited and he agreed to let me treat the animals. I took the sheep into the compound and dosed them myself. That winter all these sheep survived. The word of my magical diagnosis spread. My work in the hospital and in the field increased tremendously.

The dispensary at Pahalgam had been under the control of the officer in Anantnag in the past; now the deputy director assumed direct control of it. Pahalgam is a famous summer resort and the deputy director used the dispensary building to house his friends and relatives.

In the summer of 1960, a big fire gutted hundreds of houses and shops in the heart of Anantnag. Sarojini's cousin Manohar Nath Kaul (Manakak), who was the president of the district National Conference party, also lost his house. I had vacant space in the veterinary complex and I offered him one apartment.

We now received a telegram from Babuji saying that Avinash had passed his intermediate examination. Sarojini spoke to Manakak and he offered to help him get admission into an engineering college. We thought this would be much better than the geology course at Jammu, that he wished to join. After a couple of months, he received a letter that he had been admitted in the engineering college in Madras. We were in Srinagar attending the marriage of a niece of Sarojini. Sarojini took a loan of two thousand rupees from her sister and we packed Avinash off. The money was paid back to her by pawning our gold with the State Bank.

The deputy director was unhappy with me because he stopped getting his cut from the contractors supplying the dispensaries under my supervision. He was unhappy on another account as well. One of my responsibilities was to check and approve the tour programmes of the staff in my sub-units. Since I had toured the whole region extensively, I could not be fooled about the distances. The rules allowed a special allowance for trips that were beyond eight miles. There was no allowance if the trip was less than this distance. The staff had, in the past, shown nearby trips less than eight miles away as ten day tours; on such trips the staff stayed on at their homes and shared a part of their allowance with the deputy director's staff. I sanctioned such tours but disallowed any allowance for the middle eight days. This caused a lot of unhappiness amongst many people, not least the deputy director.

Now the deputy director made several surprise visits to catch me off guard but he always found me on duty. One day, he came early in the morning and he found the compound full of animals. I was checking the animals and writing prescriptions to be purchased in the market. He asked why I was working so early in the morning. I was then advised that I should not write prescriptions for them to purchase. But the medicines in our stores were generally adulterated country drugs and besides our stocks ran less than a hundred rupees. There was an old order of the director that the animals should be given drugs free from the dispensary store, but this order lost all relevance in view of the corruption in the department.

A cattle show was held in Anantnag. It was all fun until the prize distribution. Many prizes were given to people who were absent and these the deputy director pocketed. The farmers began to threaten violence. I escorted the deputy director to my residence where he rested till late evening by which time the people dispersed.

We had two breeding units: one for mules and the other for cattle. The studs were cared for by a prosperous Kashmiri Pandit farmer. It was a large joint family, some in government service, others in business and yet others worked on the land. The family would also host any officer from our department who happened to be visiting. The units were working quite satisfactorily. One day the elder Pandit expressed his wish to bid for the supply of fodder and feed for the centre as the sanctioned rates were very high. He told me that the rate for grass alone was fifteen rupees to a quintal, when he could buy this amount for three or four rupees. I asked him to research the market for seasonal fluctuations and bid five rupees higher than what he had to pay. The family now sent Ram Krishen, one of the family, with their bid in a sealed envelope to Srinagar where instead of getting it entered into the receipt register, he handed it over to the deputy director, who was also paid two hundred rupees as advance for sanctioning the contract.

When the contract was awarded, the family did not get it. Instead, it went to someone whose bid was much higher. While I was on tour in their area, they asked me about it. When told that the bid papers had been given personally to the deputy director, it was clear that nothing could be done. They wanted their two hundred rupees back but Ram Krishen was too embarrassed to ask for the return of the money. So one day, the elder Pandit went to Srinagar. He spoke to the deputy directpr in generalities hoping that the money would be returned to him without his having to ask for it. When this did not happen, he told him that he was short of funds and he needed some help. The deputy director immediately put his hand in his inner coat pocket and took out the money. When the old Pandit had his money, he told the deputy director that he had finally met a man who had all the three attributes of {kalam, halam, nalam}, which translated means pen of authority, accepting bribes, and dodging responsibility.

I investigated this affair further and learned that the deputy director had carried the sealed envelope in his pocket and, on the day of opening of the tenders, flaunted it before the contending suppliers to arouse their curiosity. They requested to be shown the rates in this bid and he would do so if they paid him in advance. Each supplier paid him a bribe to see the contents of the envelope. The old Pandit's bid was the lowest and his competitors were about three times higher. The deputy director persuaded the contender to reduce his bid to two times higher than the Pandit's. So he played a double game: one for showing the bid and second in the regular commission the contractor paid on approval of his bid.

The demands to supply the concentrates in full was irking the supplier and he was tardy, missing deliveries, and so I black-listed him. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when come new year, I saw the same contractor supplying us fodder. I banned his entry into the hospital premises. The attendants came to intercede on his behalf. But I would not budge. The deputy director also came to intercede. When I did not listen he wished to check the ration register as one of the complaints against me was that we did not buy any hay during winter.

The purchase of dry hay was done by weight. When the supply came, the loops of hay were counted and the weight estimated by weighing one loop. In this method the store keeper took the thinnest loop to estimate the total weight. Since feeding was done by actual weight a surplus was created if the animals were fed concentrates properly. At the end of March, the store keeper told me that he had a surplus of hay. I asked him to show twenty quintals as surplus and entered this amount in the books. Without my knowledge, the store keeper showed the surplus beyond this as having been purchased from the villages. He prepared all the receipts of the carriers and the octroi paid to make a foolproof case of having purchased the hay.

One attendant in the hospital was sympathetic to the contractor and he whispered into the deputy director's ears that nothing had been purchased that winter. But the staff had prepared receipts in such a fashion so as to show delivery on dates when this attendant was absent. The contractor's complaint was that since no grass had been purchased and there was a surplus at the end of the winter he should be paid for it. When the deputy director and the contractor saw the re-entry of twenty quintals in the books they realized the battle was lost. The deputy director had no choice but to approve the bills that were submitted by my office.

Since the deputy director failed to dislodge me from my job, he now advised one of his agents to lodge another complaint against me. I was accused of charging exorbitant fees for private visits after office hours. The complainant in the letter was allegedly from Sagam, a place ten miles away. I insisted that the deputy director accompany me to Sagam so that we could confront the complainant to find the truth. He did not agree to this and the case was closed.


Section 47

Meanwhile, political events were moving fast. There were border clashes between China and India in Ladakh when we were in Leh. Several Indian soldiers were killed when they tried to reclaim the border posts that were illegally occupied by the Chinese. In India Nehru was praised in the fifties as the leader of the non-aligned nations of the world. He had tried to articulate positions independent of the two power blocks in the Cold War years. But the Western nations saw him as an ally of the Russians whereas to the Communists he was a foolish idealist who could be pushed around. In the 1950s, while Nehru was toasting China as an ally with shared ancient history, the Chinese were secretly building a road through Aksai Chin, an unpopulated high plateau in Ladakh. Nehru's geo-political thinking was based on woolly analysis and he had no real support amongst the international powers.

By the time it was commonly known that China seized large chunks of land in Ladakh and elsewhere, other issues had also become important. Before this, when China seized Tibet, we did not protest in spite of the historical ties between the Tibetans and us and our strategic interest in securing the north. But India gave refuge to the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans when China brutally put down their attempts to win self-rule. The Chinese, as an aggressive imperialist power, armed with the self-righteous rhetoric of Marxism, considered this a great affront. The relations between India and China became frigid and there were several border skirmishes. A regular war began with large scale invasion by the Chinese in September 1962. India was unprepared for this war and, abandoning its high horse of non-alignment, it turned to the U.S. for military assistance.

The Chinese declared cease-fire in late November and they withdrew from the parts of northeast India that they had overrun. However they maintained their possession of a large chunk of Aksai Chin.

Assistance from the U.S. came with a price. There was considerable pressure for India to reach a settlement with Pakistan on Kashmir. Nehru's prestige took a great dive.

During the autumn of 1963, Nehru fashioned a plan to get rid of long serving corrupt Chief Ministers and rival politicians. It was announced that the pland was an idea of the Tamil politician Kamaraj, but it was clearly a copy of tactics often employed in the Soviet Union. Under the Kamaraj plan all ministers were to submit their resignations to Nehru. Morarji Desai, the person most thought would succeed Nehru, lost his position in the cabinet. Desai was a conservative in the Congress party and Nehru wanted someone else, perhaps his own daughter Indira, to succeed him.

Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad lost his job but the replacement was his own man, Shamasuddin. Sarojini's cousin Manakak became the revenue minister.

To build a political base for himself, Shamasuddin tried a few populist things such as dismissing some of the most notoriously corrupt officials in the state. Bakshi's hold on the administration was beginning to wane and it is believed that he and his henchmen created the next crisis. A hair, believed to be of prophet Muhammad, kept in a glass tube in the Hazratbal mosque was stolen.

The Hazratbal shrine is one of the most important in Kashmir. The scholar Aurel Stein informs us that before the Islamic rule it was a popular Hindu-Buddhist pilgrimage centre. Demonstrations and strikes by the Muslims in the valley followed. Intense feelings against the state government and the centre built up. People would parade in towns and villages carrying bundles of grass to keep them warm during the nightly vigils. Kashmiri Hindus were not directly threatened but there was always the possibility that riots against them would be engineered as had occurred in East Pakistan where Hindu homes and shops had been attacked and many people killed. We lived in a government building close to a major mosque and menacing crowds would mill around that area the entire day.

The hair remained missing for several weeks. Pakistan was using this incident for its anti-Indian propaganda. Nehru now sent Lal Bahadur Shastri to Srinagar to find a way to recover the hair. It was clear that the situation had gone out of control and the thieves wished for the episode to be over. Shastri let it be known that the thief could return the glass tube with the hair by packing it in a bag of rice. As many such bags were donated to the shrine daily, this would protect the identity of the thief. Soon enough the tube with the hair was recovered from one such bag. The crisis was over. But the bungling during the whole episode meant that Shamasuddin---and Manakak---were out of job; the leftist Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq became the next prime minister.

Nehru now released Sheikh Abdullah from his long imprisonment. Abdullah travelled to Pakistan to hold discussions with President Ayub. We did not know what political deals were in the works. Some newspapers were suggesting that the valley might be given some autonomy; others spoke of a federation between India and Pakistan so that the Kashmir question would become moot. But before anything could happen Nehru died in May 1964.

Shastri succeeded him as prime minister. He was perceived as a weak leader so Pakistan tried to wrest Kashmir by force. Large number of irregular troops were sent into the valley to start an insurrection. Most of them were promptly captured. This led to the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 which ended in stalemate on ground. India and Pakistan, under intense international pressure, signed an agreement in Tashkent to return to the pre-War positions. It was seen as a sell-out in both countries and Shastri suffered a heart attack and died before he could return to India. Indira Gandhi became the next prime minister.


Section 48

During the last year of Bakshi's government, the government of India gave funds to open a Merino sheep breeding farm. It was planned that rams would be imported and mated with the local stock. The farm was to purchase ewes in the open market. The minister of animal husbandry did not wish to share the commission expected in this large purchase with the well entrenched director of the department. So he created a new Sheep department. I was transferred to this new department and my new office was in Bijbehara five miles away in Anantnag. I cycled to my office.

We were called by the new director to his office in Srinagar. He spoke to me separately and said that he wished for me to hire three shepherds in my unit and he raised two fingers. I asked him the meaning of the sign with the two fingers. He replied that I should charge two hundred rupees from each appointee and give the money to him. I said that I could not do this and would send the shepherds to him to make the payment. Other officers were likewise told to raise money for him and I believe that most obliged. When Shamasuddin dismissed one hundred officers, this chap was amongst them.


Section 49

Meanwhile, Subhash also left home and joined the engineering college at Srinagar. I returned to my parent department in 1965; this was followed by my appointment as the manager of the cattle farm at Cheshmashahi, the magnificent Mughal garden, above the Dal Lake, in Srinagar. In 1967, I was transferred to Jammu, first as manager of the cattle farm and then I did various stints as director of the department's various divisions.

Avinash finished his engineering in 1966 and that summer, while awaiting results, he taught as a visiting lecturer at the engineering college. As soon as his results came out, he was awarded a fellowship at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi to do his doctorate. Subhash followed him one year later.

With a few exceptions, my colleagues and superiors were corrupt and venal. The years when Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad headed the government corruption was pervasive. And the later administration of the self-professed leftist Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq brought no relief. The attitudes of the highest officials of the state were reflected in the behaviour down the line. Professors earned favours by ensuring that the children of the politicians got high marks; this was done by substituting for the answer papers of the politician's son or daughter the paper of one of the best students in the college. To get hired in the state departments the hiree usually paid a bribe to the officer. In engineering departments all the engineers got a share of the total purchase budget.

When I became the provincial director of my department, I was sent messages to collect bribes for the director, Ghulam Mohiyuddin. This particular director was building a mansion in Srinagar and he expected the costs to be partly borne by his staff. Once his assistant asked me directly to contribute to the purchase of glazed windows for the house. Amongst the bizzare things he did was to steal tens of thousands of eggs of specially imported hens which were meant to improve the breeds in the valley. He had these eggs added to the concrete for better finish of the floors in his mansion. This director as well as other officers were periodically suspended by the government and then reinstated when they returned to their rapacious ways with a vengeance. The suspensions provided leverage to the ministers to exact their own bribes from the officers.

When I was the manager at the Cheshmashahi farm, the minister called me to his residence. He said that the National Conference was holding a convention and I would have to pay 20,000 rupees. When I expressed my inability, he advised that I should get that money out of the store purchases. I remained un-cooperative and he now asked me to send to him the stores supplier.

I told the contractor what had transpired. I also warned him that, while bargaining with the minister, he should not consider any reduction in the quality and the quantity of the supplies. The contractor took some time in meeting with the minister and after much haggling they settled on a bribe of five hundred rupees.

Certainly, things were no better elsewhere in India. Indira Gandhi and her minions were neck deep in their own scandals. This was the time that there was much talk of setting up poultry farms and the like. Powerful politicians like Durga Prasad Dhar also set up such farms. We saw how corrupt and immoral these leaders were in their business dealings. Nevertheless they acted superior to the earlier figures like Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad whom they derided for backwardness. D.P. Dhar and other leftist politicians must have rationalized their ways as being a necessary evil in the larger fight for world revolution.

The politicians demanded money to fill up their coffers to fight elections. Because of my reputation I was generally left alone. I could not be wished away owing to my seniority in the department, but the ministers were always looking for excuses to transfer me.

Didda passed away in 1961. She had been a loving mother to me. Bayaji, on his retirement, moved in with us for some time. Later he went to Ghaziabad to live with the family of his daughter, Kamala. During the war with Pakistan in 1971, he was in the hospital for prostate surgery. He died of post-operation complications. He was a real saint.

Babuji, on his retirement from the Kapurthala college, served successively as principal of new colleges in Haryana. Hem's husband died in a scooter accident and Babuji and Bibiji started living with her soon afterward.

The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 had been fought over what became Bangladesh. In Jammu, we were just a few miles from the border where some fierce battles took place. Pakistan was soundly defeated, its armies surrendered in the east. Near Jammu also the Indian armies made strategic gains.

The gains on the battlefield were lost by the diplomats in just a few months. India was prepared to accept the de facto partition of Kashmir that had taken place in 1949, if Pakistan would drop any claim to the rest of the state, and accept the line of control as the international boundary. Indira's envoy D.P. Dhar, who travelled to Pakistan to prepare ground for talks between the two countries, believed that he had Pakistan's agreement to it. But when Indira Gandhi and the Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, met in Shimla in July 1972, Bhutto balked. Indira Gandhi's advisors were not experienced diplomats; they had risen by virtue of their sycophancy. Having raised the expectations of the public, they felt compelled to strike an agreement to return the seventy thousand odd Pakistani prisoners of war for a mere acknowledgement by Pakistan that the two countries would decide the issue bilaterally at a future date.

Pakistan was a decisive victor at the bargaining table. For India, it was worse than Neville Chamberlain's sellout in Munich. But Indira Gandhi's indirect control over the media was so strong that the significance of the Shimla agreement was not generally recognized.

In 1975, Indira Gandhi reached an agreement with Sheikh Abdullah and he returned to power. Abdullah was no doubt impressed by the apparent demise of the two-nation theory after the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Overnight, the Pakistan radio, to which he had been a hero for more than twenty years, declared him an Indian stooge.

I retired from the service in 1976. Then I joined the State Bank as a consultant to advise on agricultural loans. All our children had left home by now. Avinash was a professor in America; Subhash was a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi; Shakti, Jaishree, and Neeraj were studying at Nehru University in Delhi. In 1978, Jaishree left for New York for her higher studies in German literature and the following year we celebrated the weddings of two of our children. Subhash married Navnidhi (Naumi), a Garhwali girl from Dehra Dun, and Shakti married Valsan, a Keralite from Bombay. Later that year Subhash accepted a professorship in America.

Autumn Leaves



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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference 1993 Panun Kashmir
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