Written on Wednesday 04/06/08
Kokoi: my home Dhok (vicinity in village Gurutta) tehsil: Sehnsa district: Kotli AJK
People do ask and wonder as to why I've spent the last 3 and so years in a country like Pakistan, from where most 'sane' people flee at the earliest opportunity. My answer is and always will be my 'Naani'.
Born in a Hindu-Brahman-Saasan family in Nikyaal, which is c.35 kilometres west of the district capital Kotli and merely a few kilometres from the LOC). She was barely 15 when she was displaced from her family, who were fleeing for their lives on account of belonging to the 'wrong' religion. India or more precisely "Indian-administered Kashmir" was to be their enforced refuge.
For all the shortcomings of my 'Naana' (maternal grandfather) who has been the major stumbling block in allowing me to re-unite my Naani with her family, he deserves credit for 'picking her up' and protecting her from almost certain dishonour and death at the hands of marauding hordes of men, who were baying for the blood of Hindus. He brought her home to Gurutta, married her and that's where she's been ever since. It'll be 61 years this October.
My attachment to her is even more important when you consider that my mother was very young when she got married (13 or 14 perhaps). I being the first-born child, my Naani took the responsibility of nurturing me through those 4 difficult years that I spent between Gurutta and Kokoi (my father's home across the road) before I came to England in 1976.
It wasn't until late 1987 that I 'returned home' for the first time and it was during this visit that I learnt of my Naani's background and origin.
Please read my last piece for the BBC which narrates this story in further detail.
Yes, I've been trying to re-unite her with her family since. This may give you some indication of the torment that I've endured and reasoning behind my deciding to 'stay put' here. Even if I was offered the 'throne' of the United Kingdom, I would not have returned there. I must add here that the Indian Government has 'hit me where it hurts most' by continously refusing to issue me with a visa since April 2005.
Amongst the very few plus points of staying here in Pakistan has been that I've been in close proximity to my Naani. Accompanied by my little daughter - Maghrib - spending time with her and listening to her wisdom and lamentations on life, often reminds me of the famous Jagjit and Chitra song, "Wo Kaghaz ki Kashti" (That paper boat).
Life in the village is conveniently slower than in the city and this suits me just fine at the moment. Being able to put aside my self-imposed duties and spending quality time with those closest to me in Kashmir is the closest I suppose, I could get to heaven on earth.
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