For me… exile is permanent. Homelessness is permanent. I am uprooted in my mind. There is nothing I can do about it. My idea of home is too perfect. My idea of love is too perfect. And home and love are intertwined. I am like my grandfather, who never left his village his whole life. It was deeply embedded in his matrix, too perfect to be replicated elsewhere. Malcolm Lowry wrote, ‘I have no house, only a shadow.’ I have no home, only images. And in those closets in my bedroom, I could only conjure up image of home. And now, that too is gone.
I was at a restaurant this evening, when I read that passage; I removed my spectacles as though making way for the torrential tears to roll down my cheeks. I paid no heed to the fact that I was in a public place, and that my outburst would attract curious glances. That passage was something. I let it sink in me.
Our Moon Has Blood Clots — “What a powerful title,” I told my friend when she gifted the book yesterday. Rahul Pandita’s first-hand account of the atrocities and adversities faced by the Kashmiri Pandits started with this quote:
…and an earlier time when the flowers were not stained with blood, the moon with blood clots!
— Pablo Neruda, ‘Oh, My Lost City’
The exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits must have left a scar in the heart of Mother India. What is more painful for those, who become refugees in their own country? In a steady, yet evocative tone, Rahul Pandita recounts the darkest period, when his family had to flee from his hometown to save their lives. The life before exodus had been like walking in a minefield too. But, Rahul Pandita had had a great share of life in Kashmir. From basking in the beauty of the place to being pampered by his relatives, his life had been heartwarming and memorable in a way. I was reminded of Ruskin Bond’s and RK Narayan’s stories when he described his place, and when his family doted on him.
His life after exodus, needless to mention, was a nightmare. The family had to move from one house to another, his parents toiled to make ends meet, as they hoped against hope that they would return home one day. Their dreams turned futile. However, as a journalist, Rahul Pandita visited Kashmir often, and he once mustered the courage to visit his house. Those moments, when Rahul Pandita revisited his home, tore my heart up.
What did those hundreds and hundreds people do to be murdered mercilessly? What did those hundreds and hundreds of women do to be raped and pushed into flesh trade? Only because they loved this thing called home? Only because they fought for what belonged to them rightfully?
Our Moon Has Blood Clots was powerful and heartrending. It was even like a reality check to me, and a loud reminder to be thankful for all the nice things in my life.
As I was reading the book, I was also thinking of this passage from one of my favourite books, Of Human Bondage.
When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.
A couple of hours after I finished the book, it occurred to me that Our Moon Has Blood Clots has become a part of me in a deeply personal way. Just like Rahul Pandita’s family, we moved from one house to another so often that I have almost lost count of it. Of course, we were not refugees. But, an indescribable pain surfaces when one has to keep moving.
I lived in Mylapore — the cultural hub of Chennai — for about 20 years. But, we lived in about 13 to 15 houses. I couldn’t make friends, mother was tired of packing, moving and rearranging utensils, my sister hated redoing her closet, and my father seemed wistful when he sorted out his precious cassettes and books because he couldn’t find enough space to house his collection.
I am now 28, and the last time I checked with my mother she said we have moved 18 times. I let you do the math. When we were children, father would enter our street, cycling, whistling, and ringing the bell, and he would cheerfully say, “I went to one of our old houses by mistake. The lady of the house was not grumpy, and children were studying. It dawned on me that it wasn’t my home, and I finally managed to find ours.” We would crack up. My parents, despite being unhappy about the fact that they didn’t own a land, tried taking it in their stride.
After all this time, in spite of living in the same place for about five years, when I close my eyes, and try recalling an image of my home, nothing appears. Sometimes, a long day at work or a couple of happy hours with my friends, would make me forget where I live. But, I should not be complaining. I know my house is not going to be bombed. I know my family is going to be safe. There will be a roof over my head when I wake up tomorrow. I want to be incurably hopeful. After all, my moon has no blood cots. And, I am filled with gratitude.