Once you travel to J&K in India, you know there cannot be a more humbling experience than standing against those mighty pine trees. You look up to the mountains and realise you are a mere speck in the grand scheme of things of the Universe. I am dumbfounded as I realise all the hurt and the prejudices I have nurtured is actually stupid and inconsequential. Mountains teach us resilience, and as most poets and writers have quoted “if there is paradise on earth, it is here”.
Kashmiri cuisine, the shawls and the pheran are popular among the winter wardrobe fashion diktat of North India. The beauty of the Kashmiri women is known and celebrated all over. They are divided into the Pandits and the Muslims. You recognise a married Pandit woman with the Dejhoor in her ears. It’s is a beautiful gold earring that hangs delicately on her neck with a gold chain. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of jewellery that is worn by the Kashmiri Pandit women.
I navigated my way through the valley of Kashmir and was spellbound with the untouched beauty of the state. Naturally well-built men and women smile at you. Their porcelain complexion with blushed cheeks is a clear indication of the unpolluted air and water of the Dal Lake. This was the time when the Pandits and the Muslims lived peacefully in the valley. The evenings saw an exchange of Kahwa between neighbours, singing songs of the poetry of Kashmir and the flowers of the valley. But whoever says anything is permanent. The valley renewing its shaky history of wanting to be free from India. The once peace-loving Kashmiri was scared of her own neighbour. The tea shared with Muslim neighbours started to change to hatred. Slowly, the Pandits started leaving the valley. They left their homes, their pride and belongings. Looking back seemed daunting. And the once peaceful valley resonated with gunshots and Pakistani flags being hoisted from buildings. The curfew, gunshots, dead bodies of young men were the norm. Media was abuzz with crying mothers, wives and children over the death of their loved ones. Those rosy cheeks were covered in tears. Delhi saw an exodus, once again, with the Kashmiri Pandits fleeing their home state into the makeshift refugee camps.
I accompanied my Kashmiri friend into the refugee camps with blankets. The exodus of people having lost their humanity and living as rats huddled together in those camps. I tried hard to swallow my tears, but it wouldn’t stop. I still recall a pregnant woman with the Dejhoor in her ears wanting to tear it off. She wished she never returned to the valley to get married to the man her parents had chosen for her. She was living in London and returned to this future. I had no words for her pain of having lost her freedom, her space and her ability to be free.
It has been years since I left Delhi and only a few years back found large homes in Pamposh Enclave where the Pandits were giving plots to restart all over again. I saw those homes and knew there was a pain in each of those bricks that had been used to build a life all over again.
I searched for the Dejhoor in silver and something that did not require me to pierce my cartilage to put it on. And voila at an exhibition I found the silver clip-on Dejhoor. I wasted no time in picking it up, then spoke to the designers who had created it. They reaffirmed it was a Kashmiri influence.
My silver Dejhoor signifies the collision of the mind and the heart. I can’t reach out to the lost young pregnant woman who wanted to tear her Dejhoor in those moments of despair. But, I know that all of us women are bound with beautiful adornments and sometimes we are prisoners of it. Yet we all seek freedom.
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