Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Moon Has Blood Clots

Our Moon Has Blood Clots :
The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits
by Rahul Pandita


Hardcover, 256 pages
Published on: January 22nd  2013
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184000870

Blurb:  Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azadi’ from India. The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told through the prism of the brutality of the Indian state, and the pro-independence demands of separatists. But there is another part of the story that has remained unrecorded and buried. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is the unspoken chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which it was purged of the Kashmiri Pandit community in a violent ethnic cleansing backed by Islamist militants. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed, and about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss

After having read and loved Basharat Peer’s memoir on Kashmir- Curfewed Night four years ago, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Rahul Pandita’s Our Moon Has Blood Clots when I heard about it. And the young Kashmiri in me never lets go any opportunity to know of the times my land and its people have gone through.  
The book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots, as the blurb says is a memoir of a young Kashmiri Pandit, who was forced to leave his land, his home- Kashmir in the turbulent times of 1990. It was the time, as Pandita says in the book, when people would say that they’d collect the next ration in Pakistan. The time people saw Azadi at the threshold. The time insurgency had set its foot in the land of Kashmir too strongly. The time when most of the Kashmiri Pandits had to leave everything behind and find a safer place for their lives.

The book, primarily tells a heart wrenching tale of these Kashmiri Pandits. By giving us the details of his firsthand experiences, he explains the wrath the community had to face in general, here in Kashmir and out of it. It explains how the situation compelled the Pandits to leave the valley and how after being disowned in Kashmir, they weren’t even accepted in Jammu, a place they had eventually pinned all their hopes to. No doubt the memories of the city leave a bitter taste in the writer’s mouth, or for that matter any Pandit who was looked down upon by the native Jammuites. After more than twenty years of the exodus, the Pandits might have even left Jammu and got virtually settled in the other parts of the world, they still long for the feel of home, of Shahar, of the land they belong, of Kashmir. It is important to mention that the writer also talks of the Pandits who still live in Jammu due to a multitude of circumstances, of the families that chose to stay in the valley when everyone was leaving, and the ones who decided to come back after some time.

The thing that you notice right from page one is that Pandita has written the book marvellously. Though a memoir, it reads like a novel. Days ago I was saying that I hated books without many dialogues, and days later I loved reading Our Moon has Blood Clots. Even for the ones who aren’t much into nonfiction, the book will keep them gripped. The beauty and mastery with which Pandita has put together the pieces is absolutely worth applause.

Though, I could identify with many a thing Pandita says in his book, there were certain things that found it too hard to sink in. One of these, and a major one, is that it shows the Muslims in Kashmir as utterly lecherous and lascivious, giving a truly very wrong concept about them to the people who live outside the vale. This hit me right at the moment he talks of a speech made by Indira Gandhi in Srinagar and the ‘completely indecent’ acts the men did to show their disrespect. I found it too hard to believe this fact, even if it is a fact, I doubt. He also says that the guys of his locality, just as the exodus was taking place, were eying their houses and their women. I might even  believe the former, but the latter would still take time to sink in. The thing that seemed absolutely laughable was the point where he says that one of these very guys at the very moment, did some actions, imagining to rape a girl of one of the houses they eyed and then having an orgasm! Come on Mr Pandita, you were just a fourteen year old at the moment! I still wonder, if even in today’s Kashmir a fourteen year old would know what an orgasm is. This was the point I felt that Pandita might truly have fictionised the reality to some extent. Or, the science is absolutely correct saying that memory can easily get distorted.

Talking of memory, if we compare the Our Moon Has Blood Clots with Curfewed Night, the major difference is that Basharat Peer doesn’t just dwell on his memory. He gives us every little detail of how he gathered the facts that he puts before us in the book, on his re-visit to Kashmir. While as Rahul Pandita just keeps the facts in front of us, not telling us anything about where he got them from. As a neutral reader, without knowing the source of the information, I find it hard to figure out which one to believe.

One last thing that I didn’t like about the book is that it pictures almost the entire Muslim community of the valley as villains. I know the Pandits had faced a lot at the hands of the black sheep of the community and it would naturally make the Pandits hostile to the whole lot of Muslims here. But once you’re writing a book, and picture the entire community as bad, I think it isn’t justified. It is as if he’s taken out the frustrations of a fourteen year old against the community in the book.

Overall, the book is totally worth your time. It is filled with emotions. By the end of the book, your heart will ache for a long time if you read it as an unbiased reader. But sadly, you wont know how much of it is truth. Which I believe, must not be a great much. 
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