March 1990, Jammu, Pandit Janki nath alighted from the truck, along with his tenants at Rehari Chungi. The 75 year old Kashmiri pandit had nowhere to go. His Kp tenants, the brothers, Ramesh and Rakesh urged him to accompany them. He did not protest .They were not carrying much luggage. He was carrying a Bag containing some clothes and some important documents pertaining to his property in Kashmir. The brothers were carrying a couple of suitcases. Ramesh and his younger brother Rakesh took him to their relative’s place at Govt. Quarters, Subash nagar. There was a visible sign of relief on their faces for they had cheated the Death that was preying Kashmiri pandits in the valley of Kashmir.
Though, tired, Janki nath could not sleep. He recalled his home, back at Habba Kadal. It was just 6 months back that Ramesh and Rakesh had shifted their base to Srinagar and had rented a couple of rooms in his house. The two brothers had recently joined the Govt. services. The elder brother Ramesh was married recently while Rakesh was a bachelor. Originally they were from Anantnag. Ramesh was working with the irrigation department while Rakesh was a Govt. teacher.Apart from the Brothers, there was another KP family from Badgam who had rented three rooms.
He also recalled how his wife had left for the heaven after a brief illness, couple of years back. His daughter-his only child, Lalita, had proved to be his support during those tough times. His wife Prabhawati and he had spent 50 years together. She was a good wife and a wonderful mother. She was the daughter of a landlord from Baramullah. A lively person who loved kashmiri songs. He recalled how she sang some of the verses of Lal-Ded. In the pitch black night, He also remembered his wife’s favorite song and he whispered that song with a sigh, ”Kathyu chuk Nund bane, waloo mashooq mayne”(where are you my beloved!come my beloved.).
Jankinath was the son of a wealthy landlord. He had spent his childhood in opulence. He was the only male-child among six siblings. He could not read beyond class 1 or 2. Nobody knew for sure whether he could read hindi or urdu, But he had memorized many of the Bhajans(devotional songs).He also knew how to use a jantrii(hindu calendar).
His days of opulence did not last long as a couple of reforms by the state government were announced that affected Kashmiri pundits the most.Most of the lands were taken away from KP’s under the scheme. From many years now, his only source of income was from the rent he obtained from his two houses in Habba Kadal area.
The life of Janki nath was flashing before his eyes. He was sure that he will return to his home in Kashmir, once the violence subsides.
But that proved to a Dream. He was never to return his home ever.
Janki nath was a man of honour. He did not lived with his daughter Lalitha deliberately, as it was considered unethical in Kashmir to live with one’s daughter’s family. He along with Ramesh and Rakesh shifted to Geeta Bhavan for a brief period. They got themselves registered as migrants with the govt. agencies. He visited his daughter once a week, but never stayed overnight. His son-in-law and granddaughters Neetu and Nidhi pleaded many times to stay with them forever, but he always declined.
Life was tough for Jankinath. He could not follow a word that was spoken to him by the Dogras-the people of jammu. And His hindi/Urdu was almost impossible to be understood by the Dogras. So he would gesticulate and use Single words to express himself or reach from one place to another. It was a tough task and sometimes it was humiliating. In fact he was subjected to chagrin many a times by the locals.
After a month or so, he was allocated a tent at Misriwala, Jammu. It was a small tent may be 10feet by 10 feet. He was also promised by the govt. relief agencies, that he will be paid a dole of 800Rs/month till his return to Kashmir. His only consolation was that he was not alone as hundreds of KP’s were with him in that refugee camp. The other consolation was a canal with ice cold water from river Chenab, that was running just across the road.In fact, he cherished taking a bath in the canal in the hot summers of Jammu.
His immediate neighbour Rattan lal from pulwama, too was a victim of terrorism. He had a big family for a relatively small tent that consisted of his wife ,two daughters ,a son and daughter-in-law. Jankinath during the course of time became very fond of him and his family.
His first night in the Tent was horrible. It was like a bad dream. Though he had bought a fan, but it was not enough. He could get a little relief intermittently, when the hot blow from the fan hit his sweat -drenched body. It would take another fifteen or twenty minutes before he would sweat again. And the fan cool-off his body again.
He would often imagine to be at his home in Habba Kadal in company with his late wife. He would imagine talking to Prabha. He would recall the good old times spent with her. And many a times he would sing in a low whisper the song,”Katyu chuk nund bane,waloo mashooq maine”(where are you my beloved, come my beloved).It used to give him a feeling that will be associated with a thirsty traveler who has suddenly found an oasis.
He brazenly faced the horrid summer , the sultry monsoon and the bone-chilling winters in his dwelling-the tent. He would visit his daughter at Bakshni Nagar once a week. He had also started visiting swami Mastram at paloura. Initially, he would visit once a week, later on he would stay put at the ashram for days or even weeks leaving his tent in the care of his new neighbors. His neighbors always obliged him.
This schedule continued for 6 years.
Janki nath was 81 years now. Ramesh, his erstwhile tenant had died of a cardiac arrest at a young age of 38 years. The tragedy of living as a refugee with little or no social life, and the penury had taken a toll on the health of Janki nath as well. His shining face had turned cadaverous. His back and shoulders had arched downwards. The sun burn had left many dark brown patches on his face. And the thick lenses of his spectacles accentuated his already big eyes.
Both his Grand daughters were studying professional degree courses outside the state of J&K. He used to long for them and loved them more than anything. They used to visit him after every semester exam, each semester lasting for six months. As a man of pride, he used to give them some pocket money. Though, every time they used to decline the money , but finally they had to give up as he insisted with authority. They knew in their hearts that by accepting the money, which used to be a 500 rupee note each, they are in fact respecting his honour.
He used to get some ration and money under the relief scheme that Government of India was running for the migrants of Kashmir. To give the pocket money to his grand-daughters and to give customary gifts to his daughter on the occasions like shiv ratri, jankinath had become a miser or an ascetic .He neglected many of his desires in order to save some money. This austerity was debilitating him physically also.
After a couple of years, His both grand-daughters started working with a company at Delhi. To assist them, his daughter and son-in-law also moved to Delhi. They requested many times to Janaki nath to come with them. But as usual, he declined their offer.
His heart always wanted to go with them. In fact in 1990, when the circumstances forced him to leave his home and come to jammu, He wanted to remain with his daughter and grand-daughters. But his pride always stopped him. All his life, he had lived with pride. He had lived 83 years of his life with honor. Even in depilated tents, his flag of self-respect furled high.
But something changed, when his daughter moved to Delhi.
His daily routine was not the same as before. The pain of separation from his only family in old age was hard to bear. For the first time, he was in such a dilemma. Should he go to Delhi or should he stay at Jammu? for whom should he stay in jammu? He could not decide. He knew the inner feelings of his heart, but decided,not to heed to his heart. It was not as easy as he had thought.
After a few weeks of emotional confusion, one day ,Supinely, in his tent, he started conversing with Prabha in whispers.”Tell me Prabha, should I go?” Prabha said,” Yes, you should go”, “what will the society say?”he asked. She said,” which society, you are talking about! There is no-one dear. Most of your friends are dead. Those who are alive are staying with their children. Why shouldn’t you too stay with Lalita ? Go to Delhi tomorrow. You have the address of her. Give her a surprise” .
He thought for some time, long time, very long time and then He said,” yes, you are right Prabha. I too must go”.
Early morning, He was seen by Rattanlal with a bag. He looked happy. He was humming a song . He crossed the road and waited at the Bus stop. Suddenly his neighbour saw him mowed down by a Bus. Rattanlal raised an alarm and rushed to his rescue. All his neighbours reached to the spot in a moment. He was laying there motionless in a puddle of blood. He was shifted to SMGS hospital immediately by his neighbours.
Some people say, he deliberately jumped in front of the bus, Others say it was an accident.But whatever said and done, He alone knew the answers.
Next day, early morning Rattan lal bought the local 8 Paged newspaper. There was a news of jankinath in page no-6.It read that an 83 year old migrant died of a Road accident. Rattanlal’s eyes became moist. He recalled the last time when he saw Jankinath. He tried hard to recall, the song that jankinath was humming. And instantly Rattanlal whispered the last words he had heard from him. On his last day, Jankinath was heard ,singing ,”Kathyu chuk nundbaane, walo mashooq maine”(where are you my beloved? Come my beloved).