Wednesday 13 January 2021

Time to go home

PC: Navneeth E. S.

These COVID times have been a festive time for literature. The internet has been busy with online literary festivals, reading sessions, book releases, etc. What we had thought would be a handicap turned out to be an advantage for many literature enthusiasts what with their accessibility to events they would otherwise have given a miss, and for the organizers in getting accomplished literary figures from around the world to speak at their events, all remaining, of course, in the comfort of their homes.

Among many online literary events, I could attend a session of the KLF Bhava Samvad held as part of the Kalinga Literary Festival where Anchor Niyati Bhat was in conversation with Writer Sandeep Raina, the author of A Bit of Everything. And my piece of writing here is about a thought that has been tearing me apart, a thought that arose in me after listening to the conversation between Ms. Bhat and Mr. Raina. Perhaps it’s a bit too late in the day to talk about it. Or perhaps the time is always right to express a thought that is continuing to burn in your mind. And yes, this burning thought is about timing – the right timing or the right context to return home.

The author was reading from his book, which is a story that takes place in Kashmir’s Varmull in the 1980s when violence left some of its people without their homes and the town without these people. Post the reading, which was as beautiful as it was heartrending, a viewer asks the author, ‘…who can decide when and in what circumstances can Kashmiri Pundits return to the valley?’ Well, what drove me to write this piece here is not the author’s answer to the question. It’s the question itself.

Is there a right time to go home? Or should there be one? Isn’t home a place where you can go anytime, whenever you feel like it? Perhaps when you are unhappy and disillusioned with the world in general? Perhaps when this business called life tires the life out of you? Perhaps when you are so happy that your joy knows no bounds? Isn’t it the place you go to when you want, or don’t want, to be alone? And here’s someone asking about the right circumstances to return home, and whether that should be ‘in exclusive colonies’ or ‘in mixed neighbourhoods’. And they still call it their home because they have no other. As someone rightly said, you may leave home, but home never leaves you.

What unsettles me is the thought: how pathetic a people we are that some of us have been waiting for the right time to go back, or come back, home for years, or even generations? We squabble about our real roots and true history, but what difference does it make when we are going to learn nothing from it anyway? No wonder the protagonist in the novel says, ‘Kashmir was best not explained.’ Perhaps that’s true for all the Kashmirs of this world and all those people who lost their homes or left their homes, whose homes never left them. They are best not explained.

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