I live in the southern part of India. The weather is warm for most part of the year, winter exists only in name. Ever since I was a kid, I've heard the term "Paradise on earth" as a synonymn for Kashmir. Its beautiful valleys, the mountains, everyone wants to go there during summers. It is also a well known fact that Kashmir is a disputed territory. And I always want to know the state of the people who call that place, their home.
I've met only 4 Kashmiri people in my life. They came down south long ago to find a better life, as I knew it back them. My aunt ran a creche for children and two Kashmiri kids, Hamza and her brother (I'll write his name when I can remember) were the ones who gave me a glimpse of this other India. I was, what, 8 or 9 year old when they first came in. Hamza's mom was this really fair woman, the whitest female I had seen personally at that age. Her dad was too, and I remember his dark brown moustache very distinctly. Hamza and her brother were 3 and 6 respectively. I used to find it really funny the way they spoke. They knew very little hindi, and whatever they knew, was very accentuated.
I'll always remember Hamza's brother's rendition of "Chappa Chappa Charkha Chale" from the movie MAACHIS, which was based on Kashmir. His rendition was, as you might have guess, very accentuated too. It was funny then. I would later realise that even as a 6 year old,that boy had such deep emotions for the land he was born in. Something that I can resonate with, but not entirely.
Hamza and her brother came there for 3 years in all. I drifted away from the "KIDS" from the creche, as I entered my teens. They still keep in touch with my aunt, all the kids who ever came to the creche as well as their parents. That was the end of my Kashmir connection for a long time. Then I forged a new one.
Mummy's best friend and colleague Sophie Aunty called up one day and said, "I'm sending over the Kashmiri Bhaiyya at your place. He has some really beautiful stuff, you'll like it". Sophie Aunty knew this Kashmiri Bhaiyya and her father for a real long time. I was excited at the prospect of meeting another Kashmiri after such a long time. And so after many delays and busy schedules, finally it was decided to call the Kashmiri Bhaiyya to my aunt's place as he was showing his wares around that place and he said he'll come over.
Mom went on giving him directions as he had never been to this side of the city before. He said he could easily find our house, coz that's the area he normally does his business. My aunt's residence was in a place he had not gone before. And so, we waited from the 4th floor of the apartment where she stays, looking out from the balcony to see if he had come. The auto stopped two apartments before my aunt's, and out came a tall burly man, followed by a rather young looking boy, small, thin... then they took out their huge bundles, placed it on the back and followed Mom's directions to enter the apartment.
It was a saturday and it was the first time that I saw them.