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
   Download Book

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Part IV - Reflections

Traversing six forests,
I awakened the orb of moon.
Controlling my breath,
I rose above the world.
--- Lalla

I came by highway.
Now, in the middle of the embankment,
by the small bridge,
the day is coming to close!
--- Lalla

Section 50

We now decided to live in Delhi because that is where many of our relatives had retired. We bought an apartment in Saket, in south Delhi, in 1981; the next year my last tenure with the State Bank in Jammu ended. Since then my life has consisted of reflection and meditation. By early eighties all my children had completed their education and married. Neeraj married an Assamese girl named Lily, who was his classmate, and Jaishree married Steve, an American who was doing his doctorate in philosophy at her university. Valsan went to Nigeria for a couple of years to teach and Shakti was also there for several months. On their return, they settled down in Delhi, very close to our apartment. Soon they had two girls, Madhavi and Divya. Abhinav and Arushi, the children of Subhash and Naumi, were also in India frequently. Watching the children grow, reminded me of the childhoods of my children, and of my own childhood. How much we forget, until reminded by the innocent antics of the young!

The political situation in Kashmir got progressively worse in the eighties. After the death of Sheikh Abdullah in 1982, his playboy son Farooq succeeded him and he turned out to be a bad administrator. He was dismissed by Indira Gandhi and replaced by his brother-in-law G.M. Shah, who had long been in favour of Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. This government did not last very long; Kashmir was placed under governor's rule for some time and then Farooq returned to power. Politics had become a family drama not only in Delhi, but also in Srinagar.

This musical chairs took its toll on the administration. The Islamic parties were meanwhile strengthening themselves through indoctrination, that began in government funded Islamic schools. The Iranian revolution and its defiance of the West had also galvanized the Muslims. Some of the American arms and funds for the Afghanistani mujahedeens, sent through the Pakistani intermediaries, found its way into Kashmir. President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan could hope to wrest Kashmir by fighting a proxy war there and in Punjab.

The political theatre in Delhi and Srinagar was fascinating and it was easy to lose sight of the basic issues. During her years, Indira Gandhi ruled by patronage and intrigue. She was laying the groundwork for her son to succeed her.

Although I had long felt that the policies of Nehru and Indira were wrong, India seemed so beleagured by problems that often, at the time of elections, one felt there was no alternative to their leadership. Even if Nehru had not been enamoured of socialism, the stand of the West on Kashmir was bound to push India into the Soviet camp. American support of the brutal repression by Pakistan in Bangladesh before the 1971 war was hard to understand, considering that ten million refugees had fled to India.

India needed Soviet Union for support in the Security Coucil. In turn, we lent voice to the Russian positions in the assemblies of the poorer nations. We were being buffeted by strong forces of history. The rebirth, prophesied for India by Aurobindo, would not occur very soon. We could only hope that we had prepared the next generation to have the moral strength to lead India into its renaissance.


Section 51

During 1985-6, we were for a year in America. Neeraj and Lily, after their doctorates in anthropology, decided to get into the health care profession. Neeraj joined a post-doctoral programme at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They had a boy, Rahul, and a daughter, Manisha, arrived while we were there. After a lapse of fifteen years, we saw Avinash, together with his wife Dianne, and their girls Carina and Maura.

It was on this visit that I found that Subhash was deep into research on ancient India. He had shown how Panini's three thousand year old Sanskrit grammar had important lessons for modern day computer scientists. Next he analyzed the ancient Indus script (later renamed Sarasvati script by him) and showed that the Brahmi script of the Mauryan times was derived from it. I was not surprised, but this work ran against the prevailing orthodoxy.

Subhash's Indian research has led to astonishing new meanings for Vedic ritual and the Rigveda. It appears that these findings will lead to a revision of the history of the ancient world. When Subhash explained some of these discoveries, I suggested that the lake of Kashmir might have drained in the same tectonic event that led to the drying up of the Sarasvati river around 1900 BC. The Sarasvati evidence suggests that Rigveda is at least four thousand years old and therefore the core of the Mahabharata must also be at least that old. As far as I remember, there is no mention of any Kashmiri king fighting in the Mahabharata war. It should be possible to obtain new insights on the earliest Kashmir by a review of old texts.

Meanwhile, there have been several sad departures from amongst our relatives and friends. In 1982, I went to Kashmir to spend a couple of months there to savour the air and the fruit of the season. I wanted to visit the places of my childhood. Promila, the daughter of my brother-in-law Radha Krishen, was getting married there. Zind Lal was taken ill there and he and Aruna returned to Delhi in a hurry so that he could have his prostate surgery. The prostate surgery went well but later, when he was given a glucose drip, he had a fatal heart attack. Sub-standard glucose drip had caused several deaths in Indian hospitals those days and we don't know if that was the reason here. Since then, Sarojini has lost her oldest brother Kashi Nath and her oldest sister Kamala. Bayaji's daughter Kamala and her husband Tika Lal are also gone.

For Babuji, the evening years of his life have been full of pain. Bibiji had been bed ridden for years and after we returned from one of our trips abroad she died. We took the ashes to Haridwar for immersion in Ganga. Two years ago Sarakak died of a heart attack in Ludhiana. There have been other departures that I shall not recount here.

Jaishree and her family came to India on a brief visit in 1989. They wished to visit the temples in Puri and see Swami Lakshman Joo, the great Shaivite philosopher, in Srinagar. Jaishree and her son Vajra were back again in 1991 and 1992, the second time when she was researching her book on Lalla. I had innumerable discussions with Jaishree regarding the texts of Lalla's Vakhs. It was in the context of her Shaivite researches that I accompanied her to the ancient city of Kashi. We roamed the city, visited temples, and took the famous boat ride down the Ganga along its legendary ghats. We also went to Sarnath.

Our travels also took us to Indonesia when Neeraj was there. Indonesia is a fascinating country, where Hinduism has been around for more than two thousand years. Ramayana and Mahabharata are very popular there, and like other southeast Asian countries, it has its own version of the Indian classical dance. Hindus are now a small minority on the island of Java, but they are the predominant religion on the island of Bali. Hinduism remains a strong presence amongst the intellectuals in all parts of Indonesia. Buddhism is often viewed as being complementary to Shaivite thought. In certain ceremonies, the Shaivite and the Buddhist priests operate together in the numerical proportion of four to one.

We saw several old temples in Java. At a Hindu temple in Bali, I was gladdened by the recitation of the gayatri mantra by the priest. I am told that during the centuries that Indians and Indonesians lost contact, a considerable part of the Sanskrit tradition was lost in Indonesia. A century ago the Balinese remembered only a fragment of the gayatri mantra.

In September 1992, Sarojini and I again came to the United States. We are now in Honolulu with Jaishree on our way back to India. Although, it has been an enjoyable stay, Sarojini is very keen to be back in Delhi. She and her friends have built a temple to Durga in Saket, and she is the secretary.


Section 52

The news has been full of stories of sectarian strife in India. Of the most shameful episodes of modern history are the dozens of massacres of train and bus passengers by terrorists, allegedly in the pay of the ISI, the Pakistani secret service, that have occurred from time to time in the past decade. The West paid no attention because Pakistan was its ally in the struggle against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan; in fact ISI was getting billions of dollars to train terrorists against the Russians. The struggle against communism may have been justified as a fight between the ideologies of capitalism and communism, but to have remained allied to such a murderous state for years makes the West an accessory to horrible crimes. Those in power do not always separate questions of ends and means.

The past two decades have witnessed a resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism all over the world. Islamists acknowledge no history but their own. They seek an ideal state, a utopia, based on religious laws. But they are also driven by a rage against all non-believers. They hate the Western civilization but, nevertheless, they want more of the goods coming out of the factories of the developed world. Pakistan, an area where some of the greatest scholars, artists, scientists, doctors, and poets of the ancient world lived, considers its history before the conquest of Sindh by Arabs to be a blank. will not acknowledge Panini, the Punjabi grammarian and one of the greatest geniuses of all time. Imagine a movement in Europe that rejects Shakespeare, Newton, Einstein, and all its writers and philosophers!

Actually the problem is even worse since all non-believers are painted by the clerics as some kind of monsters. Their sermons repeat this message endlessly. I remember an incident from my student days at Lahore. On the train, returning after vacations in the valley, poor Kashmiri Muslim labourers boarded the train at a small station. There were empty benches on the train but the Punjabis would not let them take these seats. During those days, the Kashmiri labourers would come seasonally for work to the Punjab and they were considered dirty and stupid, and forced to travel hunched up on the train compartment floors. This inhuman treatment was meted out to them by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs alike. I spoke up for the labourers in my faultless Punjabi and this had an effect and they were allowed to take seats. A middle-aged Punjabi woman, who was watching this scene intently, struck up a conversation with me and she tried to match make me with an eligible niece until she got to know my name. She could not believe that I, in spite of my faith, had pleaded for the labourers.

I foresee years of conflict around the world as followers of exclusivist world views face the inexorable march of science. I foresee a triumph of those ideas that value experiential knowledge and universality. New religions will have to learn to respect the old and also respect the right of the individual to choose. Eventually there can be only one religion, that of truth and humanity.

It is fascinating how people justify their situation even if they must side with their oppressors. In India this has happened countless times. Some of the worst tyranny on the Hindus was imposed by new converts. In Kashmir, Sikandar's minister Suha Bhatta, a new Muslim, abetted his king in the forcible conversion of the Hindus. According to the historian Ferishta, Sikandar ordered that only Muslims be allowed to reside in Kashmir. Those who tried to flee the valley were cut down by armed soldiers at mountain passes.

Another interesting case of a different type is that of Muhammad Iqbal, the poet and originator of the idea of Pakistan. His grandfather Sahaj Ram Sapru, a revenue collector, embezzled funds and when discovered the Afghan governor, Azim Khan, gave him the choice of death or conversion to Islam. Sahaj Ram Sapru chose life and, assuming new names, he and his family moved to Sialkot in the Punjab. Later Iqbal never acknowledged his native Kashmiri and Indian tradition that his grandfather had been so cruelly forced to renounce.

Perhaps this reveals that terror wins. The victims wish to be like their tormentors. Which is why the descendents of the American Indians, who were treated with such monumental barbarity by the Spaniards, wish to forget their native heritage. But such amnesia leads to a weakening of the spirit, a loss of purpose, confusion about ends and means. To progress all are alike; it recognizes no religion, only a search for truth. Those who would not be true to their past will not be able to recognize the truth about the future.


Section 53

There has been some progress in India in the past half century but we have also taken many wrong turns. Perhaps the worst was the bureaucratization of Indian life that was started by Nehru in imitation of the Soviet Union. An official like me was a prisoner of this system, unable to do anything on my own, even resign and take up another job, as I had wished to do once.

But worst of all the Nehruvian system reduced all Indian issues to that of class and caste conflict. The media and the government were harnessed to indoctrinate the public. Undoubtedly, such demagoguery laid the foundations of useful electoral alliances which won the Congress party many victories. But it also led to a progressive deterioration of the quality of Indian public life and government.

In Kashmir, the Hindus were declared to be the exploitative class. New burdens, in terms of quotas, that worked against them in admission to colleges and in promotions in job, were instituted. The same process has been repeated in many variations against different communities in other parts of the country.

The result of all this is that India has not created institutions for a modern state where all citizens are treated equally, irrespective of their private faiths. Not surprisingly, those who speak the most about class struggle are the ones who wish the class differences to become sharper.

It is astonishing how much of damage has been wrought by modern ideologues who do not understand India and whose interpretations have been the basis of public policy in India for the past half century. They speak of higher and lower castes when there is no such permanent divide; these labels reflect economic and political power that are forever changing. They analyze Indian culture and traditions in terms of categories, obtained from Western setting, that confuse more than clarify.

It is sad to see that the Westernized elites in India do not even understand the reasons for the greatness of the West. Paying homage to the symbols, rather than the essence, they have subverted our independence. The English left almost fifty years ago but the minds of the bureaucratic elites in the media, government, and business are prisoners of the colonial mentality.

Those who are now separated from the Indian culture, have such animosity to their own heritage that they are bent on creating discord. According to our belief there is a single truth and one can seek it in different ways. In contrast, Western religions insist on the acknowledgement of the prophethood of some figure, which talk is meaningless in the Indian tradition. Talk of truth being somehow dependent on acknowledgement of some person who lived long ago is also meaningless as far as science is concerned.


Section 54

I have often thought about the great `mad' sages of recent Kashmir. In my travels I met many such sages.

One of the most famous of these sages was Kashakak of the village of Manigam, fifteen miles north of Srinagar. He dressed like a peasant and ploughed his own fields. He had meditated for several years in the icy cold waters of the Sindh river in Ganderbal. He accepted no gifts and made uncanny predictions. Once, when Babuji and I took our families up to Ganderbal in a doonga on a memorable trip of several days through Vitasta and Sindh rivers, we went to see him and he had wise things to say to us. Kashakak passed away in 1961.

Another great saint was Nanda Bab, whom we met many times when we were in Anantnag. High and low came to him for blessings and advice. In our case he assured us that Avinash will get admission in an engineering college. Another time, before the India-Pakistan war of 1971, he is said to have foretold the Pakistani loss. When people would visit him he would speak in riddles and write on chits of paper what would be answers to unasked personal questions.

This also reminds me that Swami Anand Ji said many times that Kashmir would be devastated in not so distant future. Pointing to the new blocks of buildings that had come up on the Residency Road, near Pratap Park, he said that they will burn down before long. Are we witnessing that now?

In my extensive tours of the valley, I ran into other such mystics who have made remarkable predictions. These people did not follow the conventions of society and they had their own quirks and oddities. There was one who reputedly swallowed rocks. There was another near Kulgam who invited the local mullahs and other prominent folks to a feast. When everyone had eaten, he showed the guests that dog meat had been served. The guests were so scared of the powers of this sage that they went quietly home, a bit wiser perhaps regarding the arbitrariness of eating taboos.


Section 55

America also has many problems that include the breakdown of the family and urban violence. Ivan Illich explains it: "In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy." But it is reassuring that the society is organized to solve problems using science. People are also very open to the wisdom of India. These ideas of universality and of perennial philosophy are the foundations on which a multicultural, new world order will emerge.

The past four years have been a nightmare for Kashmir. Pakistan has used its agents and other Muslim militants to randomly kill Kashmiri Hindus. Riots against the Hindus were engineered in 1986, but more systematic killings began in 1989. One of the first to die was Nil Kanth Ganju, a retired judge, who had been a good friend and neighbour for several years in Anantnag. Most Hindus had to flee the valley and now they are living in refugee camps in various places in Jammu and Delhi. Meanwhile, their houses have been burnt down. Having done as much as possible to destroy the heritage of Kashmir, the militants now want no evidence of people who have a different faith. The world has taken no note of this holocaust.

I cannot return to Kashmir to smell its air, to walk its bazaars. I recall that last time we were there I took Babuji on a shikara ride on the Dal Lake in moonlight and the beauty of the moment brought such a flood of memories to Babuji that he could not restrain his tears.

Hawaii, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is beautiful with its lush green foliage and blue sky. I spend mornings in the balcony which overlooks a bubbling stream and tall green trees in the foreground and the Honolulu skyline of towering highrise buildings in the background. I look out and see the water flowing downstream in ever-renewing patterns. Evenings, I can see the glowing ball of sun slowly moving towards the horizon and gently disappear leaving a soft reddish glow behind. Last night I went to the Hawaii State Fair with Sarojini, Jaishree, and Vajra. The fair grounds were all lit up, the rides were in full swing, and we watched a circus show in which the children in the audience were asked to participate. Vajra got to put on the costume of a forest ranger and catch a lion who was another child dressed as a lion. All of us had a good laugh. I sat in the circus tent while the others went to take a round of the fair grounds. Soon the tent was closed for the night, and I had to move on to the dairy exhibit that had huge stacks of grass. I sat on a bundle of grass for a long time.

Life seems to have come full circle. I have returned to the discipline of mantra yoga that I had received from my guru, Vakil Sahib. The climate in Honolulu is magnificent; it reminds me of that other paradise, Kashmir.

Autumn Leaves



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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference 1993 Panun Kashmir
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