The Paradise in The Heart
The Paradise in The Heart
Altaf was never interested in his father's business. Whenever his friend Rudra asked him the reason, he always told "What will I do? I am poor in math.” Rudra knew the reason was not that simple. Altaf had lost his mother in a terrible incident in the past. Two years ago, ISI militants had forcibly taken shelter in their home. His father being away, her mother had to do everything to protect her child. The valley was burning at that time and humanity was begging for its existence. That night when Army raided the village for the militants, there was a night long encounter. All the Militants were dead along with three army men. That night a child lost his mother. Altaf’s mother had sent him to Rudra's house that night and he survived. One can't imagine a child's state of mind and how he would see the world after such terrible incident. Altaf will never know who killed his mother. The Army or the militants. So he has poured all the hatred to the valley. He hates it now.
Rudra has a different story and life that he witnessed. He is influenced by the stories of their ancestors throughout his life. He has imbibed all the knowledge from his grandfather about Kashmiri Pandits, Shaivism and their ancient literature. He feels the valley as his home as well. He is also baffled by the way Pandits are being treated. The Pandits, who once laid the cultural foundation of the place, are mercilessly thrown away from their home. Their home are burnt, they are killed. The terrorist fundamentalists have made them flee out of the valley. Whoever did not, are living in constant fear and destitution.
Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places in India. Enticed by its beauty, Mughal emperor Jahangir once called it "Paradise on Earth". Legend says- Kashmir(Sanskrit: kásmira) was named after the Kashyapa Rishi, an ascetic as “Kashyapmar”. When the lake Satisar was drained out, Kashyap brought the Brahmins there to live and with them they brought their philosophy and knowledge.
Pandits were most ancient residents of the valley. It is their home. It has always been. They are influenced by the Maurya Empire and also by the Mughals.They are having more of Aryan traits and are decendants of Saraswata Muni and hence are Saraswat Brahmins, the highest order of Brahmins.
Rudra's mother loved Altaf like her own son. After he lost his mother, he started calling her "Maa". His father being out of the village most of the time, he used to live with Rudra at his home.In the festivals like Monjaher Taeher, Gada Bhatta, Khyachi Mavas that were celebrated, Altaf loved to have the taeher rice, fish and Khichdi. Altaf and Rudra are friends since childhood. They are not best friends, they are brothers. The two shared every feeling with each other. Rudra can find the sorrow and anxiety inside Altaf who was struggling with his past. Altaf used to say: "This valley took my mother from me and many like us. It forced its residents flee to other places as if they are refugees here." Rudra used to tell in reply: "Soon, peace will be back to the Valley. It's our homeland. We deserve to be here. Nobody from outside should come and tell us whom we should love and hate. This hatred you have, try to tame it. It will make you strong". Only Altaf knew that inside the composed and reserved guy, Rudra has conceived a volcano of anger which he has tamed. Altaf knew one more thing too. “This hope that has covered the anger inside Rudra, will break one day.”
Rudra is upset tonight. They are not celebrating the festival, “ Khyachi Mavas”. In fact none of the Pandit families are. They are threatened by the terrorists this morning. That night after dinner Altaf and Rudra were listening the stories of Mahabharata, from Rudra's mother. Suddenly inside the silence of the night, they heard the voice s of people shouting and running. Terrorists have atacked the Pandit families. They are shouting "Kashmiri Pandits... Leave Kashmir." Then some gun shots. No one had expected this attack. They were barging into every house and killing people blindly. Rudra's father was outside and they had no hope that he is returning. For Rudra, it was the time that long tamed anger was erupting. But Altaf knew this not the right time for this anger to come out. Altaf could relate this night to the night which took his mother from him forever. Now it has come again to take everything which he is left with. He thought to himself: “Ya Allah, Don’t take my mother from me, again.” He told Rudra: "Not now, my friend. Tame this anger for some more time. You have to take care of Maa now. I have a plan. I will open the door. They won't kill me. You escape from backside.” Rudra and his mother though hesitant at first understood that they have no time. Meanwhile army was informed about the attack. When the terrorists knocked at the door. Altaf told Rudra: “Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. The anger you always warned me about, I have to tame it now. You don’t lose your faith or hope. ” Rudra replied: “ My god has always been is inside . And I can see him in front of me now. ” That was the last time they met. They looked at each other for one second. Terrorists broke the door. One of them ran towards the bedroom and grabbed Altaf. He asked: “Where are the Pandits?” Altaf replied: “I used to live with my family here. You killed them. Kill me if you want to”. The terrorists could not find anyone and left.
While escaping the village, Rudra saw the houses being burnt to ashes. The whole darkness of night was engulfed by the fires coming out of the houses. They were rescued by the Army. Next day morning in Kashmir was a little more silent. It was like even the sun did not want to rise. The news broadcasted:” Terrorists have attacked in a village in the Valley. Pakistani ISI may have hands behind it.” Curfew was imposed in the area for two months. Rudra and his mother were taken to Jammu to stay on Kashmiri Pandit Camps. Even if they wanted to, Rudra could not come to his village for his friend now.
Three months have passed now. Life is returning to normal again in the Valley. Rudra has come to his village again. All the houses are burnt. He found it hard to recognize where his home was. But he was not there for the home he had lost that night. His mother wants her other child. But there was nothing, no one. Even the birds in the nearby trees have left their nests. He cried loudly like a baby. He could not believe he has lost his brother. Nobody knew what happened with Altaf. That night was not any other night in the Valley. It separated an Altaf from and a Rudra.
Tourists come to the Valley to enjoy beauty of its mountains and lakes. Very few see the scars on the mountains and the tears in the lake water. But still the valley smiles. This is the best thing about its residents. Their heart is like mountains. It was attacked, stained, scarred over the ages. Just like nobody sees the cracks on the mountain, these scars are not visible on their face either. Whether they are Muslims or the Pandits, they just want their home free from everyone else. Deep inside this paradise, its beauty and culture, there is one Altaf and Rudra who wants their home, their paradise back.