Kishni Kumari Pandita, in her book of stories, The Last Exodus, containing sixteen stories, says that the original beauty of Pandits, their glory and shine go on vanishing in displacement. People who had lived like kings in Kashmir were forced to live in shacks, stables and tents. The faces reflect gloom. The red apple cheeks and that milk and cream complexion that Kashmiri girls were having are missing. Pandits are suffering from acute nostalgia to such an extent that an old ailing man at the verge of death on seeing his family members ejaculates:
Name of the book : The Last Exodus
(Collection of Short Stories)
Author : Kishni Kumari Pandita
Publisher : notionpress
‘How come everybody is here? Is it Shivratri?’
In most of the stories pain, horror, abuse, tortures, immoral responses, burning of houses, rapes, etc are painted on the canvass of lost Kashmir. Some dialogues are the representatives of the Kashmir’s moral, structural and existential collapse. A few dialogues suffice to make the world know why exodus happened. A militant says:
‘Panditji, you have two daughters. We want to marry them… Your belongings are already ours. This is our bonus.’
In Power, there is the fusion of love and hatred. On one side hatred of militants and on the other side the love of Pushkar for his fiancée. The girl and her father want to escape from Kashmir. A militant Sultan threatens them. He demands ten lakh rupees to stay on for a little more. Pushkar is keen to take away the girl. The militant says:
‘I told you about the child, but you did not understand. She is carrying my child.’ But Pushkar succeeds in keeping his promise and takes the girl outside the valley of terror.
Reminding historical pricks Kishni recalls how KPs were named as ‘Dali battas’ and how announcements were being made from the loudspeakers:
‘We are giving you three choices, raliv, tsaliv, or galiv (convert, leave or die.)
In Divine Justice Bilaal is a man who is punished by the Almighty for his deeds. He narrates his tragedy to a Pandit whose property he had grabbed earlier:
‘He took out his gun and shot my father…I lost my mother, my daughter and everything along with what I had taken from you.’
The plot of beautifully crafted story Sacrifice is all about human relationship that is same all over the globe. An eight-year-old Muslim boy Asif develops affection for a soldier who in turn also loves him. He gives him chocolates etc. He is son of Maqbool, a drug-seller, who does this all-damn thing under somebody’s directions. Maqbool’s wife is against his activities and advises him to leave all this. However, her husband has hatred against the Indian soldiers and like others wants freedom from India. He believes that he is not Indian. Maqbool wants Asif to cut all relations with the soldier. The organisers of drug menace smell something wrong with the father of Asif as he, finally, wants to come out from this eddy. His own men shoot him. The soldier rushes from his post and pushes Maqbool who falls on his side. Unfortunately, the bullet hits the soldier. Maqbool is saved. Asif starts crying:
‘Soldier uncle, wake up. See I have come to see you.’
Attachment divulges total dejection and the depression Pandits experienced in the refugee camps. Some Pandits say that it was better to be killed by the militants than to be displaced:
‘At the most they will kill me. I will at least die in my own house …not in some refugee camp.’
Most of the Pandits faced tremendous problems in forced exile. Some of the house owners objected to their bsseing non-vegetarians along with their rituals. Most of the Pandits compromised but some did not. They shifted to other places. Some were told that they eat more rice, hence go to latrines and flush repeatedly creating water problems. Patience was the tool to survive. Kishni has boldly drawn this image in The houses. However, at the same time there is a lesson even for today when a house owner says to his tenant:
‘Kashmiris have lot of rituals…why can’t you shorten the rituals?’
Sometimes Kishni is dangerously truthful as her revelations might make some fixed minds angry. In Loyalty a Muslim serves a Kashmiri Pandit, Shiv, in Kashmir who is unable to leave valley. When his wife and his son come back to take him along with them, he tells them:
‘If I have survived this long, it is thanks to Nazir.’
A Militant’s comment in reference to Nazir ‘Such loyalty for a kafir?’ is virtually not less than the bullets. The militant picks up his gun to shoot Shiv. Nazir jumps in front to save him. The bullet hits Nazir. But before the bullet could do its work he manages their escape.
A few stories like Shejar raise some socio-domestic issues arising from exodus. A Pandit loses interest to father a child due to losing homeland. The wife with the consent of other family members, except her husband, succeeds in adopting a child. Nevertheless, the father shows indifference towards him. Ultimately, love succeeds and he picks up the child in his lap.
Kishni Pandita is right when she remarks that every Kashmiri Pandit has his own story to unfold. She has tried to unveil different aspects of mass exodus, a dirtiest anecdote in the modern history. Almost all the stories take us to the thirty-year-old memory lane when the dense darkness enveloped Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits continue to be refugees in their own country. One thing is clear that Kishni has almost touched all the angles of what is called Kashmiriat. She has adorned it in some of her stories and in some, she has awfully criticised it.
Almost in every story, there are the same explanations and anecdotes of ‘Kashmir 1990’ and thus the repetitions make the readers monotonous but at the same time, it is the reality and could have not been otherwise. Some stories should have been edited to remove the superfluous. Some of the stories have an excellent build up, and marvellous plot, and definitely, their flow gives recognition to Kishni as a storywriter. Another big plus is that Kishni has remained bold all through avoiding hypocrisy, though at times, the rebuttals of her Pandit characters against the Muslim characters seem somewhat exaggerated.