Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alienated in their twilight years...

‘Impact of Exodus on Elderly K P Women’

“I want to sit under the shade of Chinar. I want to cook on hearth of my home. I want to lie down with all my limbs stretched,” cries Somawati, 75, who lives in a camp at Mishriwala for last 20 years. “Take me to my home. Take me to Kashmir. I want to live and die there,” says Prabhawati, 80 now, who is living in Muthi Camp for last 2 decades. These and many other K P women cry and shed tears in isolation, which definitely go unseen by most of us.

At the core of their being, they are deeply peaceful, immensely loving, infinitely wise and could be profoundly contented as well but for this exodus. They are the descendents of spiritual heritage of Lal Ded and Rupa Bhawani who are the examples of saints carrying not only spiritual but also rich intellectual heritage.

K P community is well educated and dynamic where females are equally enlightened. The events of 1989-90 in Kashmir valley changed the situation completely for this peace loving community. Almost the entire community left the Valley or was forced to leave in distress resulting them to be scattered all over the country. Presently they are finding themselves on the cross-roads where every road leads to their extinction.

The impact of migration was worse on the women in general but for women belonging to age group of above 50 years the effect was worst.

Lawerence mentions in his book, “The Valley of Kashmir” that Kashmiris normally like to stay and work in the valley, quoting a Kashmiri proverb, ‘Cheri Chu panani kandi cheri pathey karar,’ meaning a bird has content when it rests in its nest, may it be a thorny one. And it is particularly true of any and every K P women. Elderly K P women, who had spent half of their life in Kashmir in their homes, could not actually adjust to the different atmosphere at new residing places, where a big mansion got replaced into a tent, or a small room or a cow-shed. It was like being uprooted at the fag end of their life or at a stage of the life where one feels, “jaida gyi, thodi rahi,” where it is very difficult to get new lease of life by being replanted at a new soil.
If you uproot a tree which has already spent half of its life in one soil under a given environment and plant it at another place, it may not survive at all or if it survives it will only find itself struggling to adjust to the new soil.

1. Paradise Lost

Elderly K P women lived in one particular environment, spent their life in a specific neighbourhood, had recognition in their own way and their small paradise comprising of their homes, hearths, cows, fields, neighbourhood was lost. This is true of K P men as well but I will deliberate upon the fact that why it told upon elderly women more than their counter parts.

A. Less educated and mainly home makers:
The women of above 50 years of age group in 1989-90 were mostly not highly educated and hence did not belong to service class. They were attached to their household activities, which got crumbled at once. Loss of homes, hearths, fields, animals and in some cases life also, devastated them and put them into a psychological trauma.

B. Loss of joint-family system:
This age group of women was used to joint-family system in Kashmir. The joint ancestral properties provided the binding factor which forced them to live together. The loss of properties is the major grievance of all k Ps, the majority of whom have to continue against tremendous economic odds. But for elderly ladies it is an unbearable loss of companionship of each-other which they would enjoy in joint-families. The exodus resulted in nuclear families leaving these elderly women to lonliness which resulted in their depression.

2. Language Problem

Since most of the Elderly K P women at the time of migration were not literate they hence had to face the language barrier. The community had to shift to different parts of the country and in J&K State they mainly shifted to Jammu province. There was a big communication gap between Jammuites and these K P ladies.
There are hundreds of examples to quote; like ‘Baccho ko khaya, Pandit ji ko khana hei’ etc etc, where because of language barrier they become laughing stock for others. May be at the face of it they also join the laughter but basically they are sensitive in character and it would pierce them somewhere deep inside creating ailment like stress.

3. Irreparable Loss

A. Family privacy and values:
The social set-up of Kashmir is known for its family privacy. People live in the houses with closed environment for outsiders. They believe in complete private family life where outsiders cannot peep, indulge or interfere. Every family has a set of defined family values which are passed from one generation to another. And women are supposed to be the guardians of family privacy and values. This is true of K P women as well. Exodus made them to seek shelter whatever and wherever they could get it, resulting in its complete erosion. For elderly women who had spent more than half of their lives in guarding it, exodus was a bolt from blue which left them completely shattered.

B. Loss of cultural ethos:
Culture is the cumulative expression of the values enshrined in the heartbeats of the people in every community. Culturally speaking each woman in Kashmiri Pandit community is considered an embodiment of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and they are honoured, revered and deeply loved.
Cross-Cultural diffusion is resulting in the complete extinction of Kashmiri Culture in Pandit community. Loss of rich culture in the form of customs and beliefs has become a matter of concern for the elderly K P women. They find it very difficult to adjust with the erosion. They feel persistently being deprived of whatever is dear to them and hence find themselves in deep agony.

C. Loss of social values:
Social values can be described as a set of beliefs or morals that help provide for family and society unity. Belief about what is right and wrong or what is important in life as per the definition of society, is what binds people together in a particular community. Social ethos has come under severe strain. Social values are being reduced to a hollow shell.
Questions haunt the women persistently, like; what has happened to our age old shrines? Where are the symbols of architectural grandeurs in the form of temples? Has every thing been destroyed? The community has been robbed of soul.

Insecure Future

A. Inter-community marriages:
Inter-community marriages have disturbed the peace of mind of elderly K P women. Since the community is scattered globally, the young generation has no inhibitions in getting married anywhere in any community. People from across the world are getting into the K P families resulting into confusion and chaos in the family set-up. This has in particular damaged the integrity of elderly women who find themselves alien to this new atmosphere. They find themselves compromising at every step with the result they have withdrawn to themselves and feel very insecure in the old age.

B. Troubled homes:
Inter-community marriage may results in troubled-homes, because of the fact that the two people with different social set-up and background naturally have different priorities, different tastes, different customs and different beliefs. In the long-run, it is observed that they find it difficult to adjust with each other and may also result in break-up in marriages or troubled atmosphere in families. The axe falls on the aged parents, particularly on mother who has always held high hopes from her children. She sees her future in them and therefore the crumbled and broken marriages break her dreams.

Personality Shattered

The ‘strong-authoritarian-creating-awe’ type of personality of K P women, for which they are known and respected, is completely, by and by, undergoing a change.
It is taking shape of a timid, self-centered and weak personality.

A. Identity crisis:
There goes a Kashmiri saying, ‘yus yas na zani, su tas kya mani,’ meaning that an unknown personality is only just another person in the world whom nobody bothers about.
Migration has created an identity crisis for KPs as and they feel that their identity was tied to the valley. It has affected mainly the women who are home-markers. The service class could find some outlet to prove them, though it took quite a long time and effort but for elderly women who otherwise would command respect they had earned in valley, found themselves belonging to no one.

B. Beauty endangered:
Kashmiri women are known for their beauty, which comes from their within and from the environment and atmosphere of the valley. Like Kashmiri apple cannot be grown anywhere other than Kashmir, in the same way the beauty and personality of women cannot develop the way it is famous for anywhere else in the world.
We all appreciate that ‘face is the index of mind’. When mind is disturbed and lost, the beauty is obviously endangered.

C. Change in dress pattern
Pattern of dressing of women has completely changed. The style of wearing ornaments which were typical of KPs has also undergone a change.

Health Problems

The trauma of exodus has taken a toll on all. Fleeing from their homes and being reduced to living the lives of refugees made them stressful and remorseful. The incidence of stress-related conditions like insomnia, depression and hypertension has increased. Birth rates have declined significantly. Women are aging physically and mentally by 10 to 15 years before their natural age.
Leading neurologist Dr. Sushil Razdan in his study on prevalence of dementia in K P migrant camp found that it is 6.5% among KPs above age group of 60 years which is reported to be higher than any where else in India. Skin diseases, sun strokes, heart attacks are the other common diseases found prevalent in this age-group, and the root cause is the migration and related impact.


· Help from NGOs
· Setting up of:
Guiding and counseling cells
Rehabilitation centers
· Formation of self-help groups


Somawati and Prabhawati had left homes only to be back within a month or so. They and others never knew that months will change into years and years into decades. They have lost patience but not hope. They dream with their eyes wide open of going back to their homes and hearths. May their dreams come true! Let the good sense prevail all around to make a safe return of KPs to their homeland. They have lost 20 years of age in exile. Enough! Let them live in their homes now.

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