Amid festive mood; dreams, love and hope float together at Mela Kherbhawani

Young KPs cite generation gap, exposure to outside world major hurdles in returning to Kashmir

Tulmulla (Ganderbal): At least 40,000 devotees on Monday thronged the famous temple of Ragnya Devi here on the occasion of annual Kheer Bhawani mela. One could see hope, love, hope dreams floating together with young, old and middle-aged devotees praying together at this ancient temple in Tulmulla area of Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
Situated amidst Chinar trees in Ganderbal district, the revered temple is thronged by devotees, mostly Kashmiri Pandits, every year for paying obeisance. Most of the devotees had come from Jammu and other parts. Muslims, in a sign of brotherhood, had erected many stalls distributing refreshments and soft drinks among the pilgrims.
The devotees believe the colour of the spring water flowing under the temple hints at the situation in Kashmir. While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, black or darkish colour of the water is believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir.
Some people claim to have observed a murky tinge to the water just before the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the eruption of militancy in 1989 in the Valley. Amid the thick smoke of incense sticks and diyas (earthen lamps) flowing with the breeze, a group of Kashmiri Pandit women were busy singing traditional religious hymns to mark the annual festival.
Those gazing at them comprised young Pandit girls, who were trying hard to know the meaning of the lines sung by the women. The girls seemed blushed as they could not understand Kashmiri language – their mother tongue. Ruchi Bhat, an MBA pass out, is a case in point. “We are actually from Ladoo, Pampore.
I was born after my parents migrated from Kashmir to Jammu,” she says in English. Ruchi, who has come for the first time to Kashmir, admitted that she can’t speak Kashmiri given the fact that the atmosphere she was born in and brought up has influenced her over the years.
“It is obvious; you catch the habits and culture of the place where you live. Since I was born in Jammu, I studied in the same place and got very less time to learn Kashmiri,” she says. “The atmosphere at my school, college and university largely influenced me. I can understand Kashmiri a little bit but can’t talk in Kashmiri.”
Ruchi has a big dream, and that’s not returning to Kashmir. “I have a vision which I can’t fulfill in Kashmir. Since I have done MBA, I would like to settle outside the State with a job in a multinational company,” she says. Ruchi’s parents have, however, kept Kashmiri language alive. “My parents talk in Kashmiri at home,” she said.
Pratiksha, a 19-year-old KP girl has no idea where Baramulla is. “My parents tell me that we are actually from Baramulla. I have never been to that place,” she says in pure Hindi. “I am doing Bachelors in Computer Applications (BCA) in Jammu.
I want to become a software engineer.” Like Ruchi, Pratiksha also says that culture had influenced her a lot. “I know Kashmiri. Thoda thoda chus mei tagaan. (I know a little bit, but not that much),” she says as her face goes red before her parents.
To support Pratiksha, another young KP girl, Sulekha says even if a pure Kashmiri-speaking person lives in Jammu for over five years or for that matter in any State of India, he or she too would forget Kashmiri. “We are not at fault. It is the situation that forced our parents to vacate this place in 1990.
Otherwise, we would have been here living with Muslims,” she says in pure English. The elderly KPs, however, were busy in prayers while some were seen exchanging greetings with their Muslim brethren. Bimla Pandita, a KP, who was living in Habba Kadal area of old city till 1991, says, “Sanen bachan hinz padai gaye badlei hawhas nawhas manz. (Our children studied in a different atmosphere).” “It is now impossible for them to learn Kashmiri. We don’t also stress them,” says Bimla.
“This is not the only difference between us and our children. We want to return to our homeland but our children have different dreams. They are an educated lot and want jobs outside J&K and even outside India.”
Babluji Bhat, an employee with CA&PD, said the only thing he prays for is that relationship between them and the Muslims should remain good. “I was transferred to CA&PD department Kashmir wing in 2007 and I found my Muslim colleagues friendlier than anybody else. We had migrated in 1990,” he says. “Many Muslims brothers greeted us here today. I want this relation should go on.”
On why their children are not able to speak Kashmiri- their mother tongue- Bhat replies: “That is an offshoot of migration. Getting displaced from homeland was as if mountains had fallen on us. We were busy in recovering from the shock and finding a place to live in Jammu, our children grew up in a different atmosphere where they forgot their language.”

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