Our Moon Has Blood Clots: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Rahul Pandita | Genre: Memoir, Indian Literature | Pages: 264 | Publisher: Random House India

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Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azadi’ from India. The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told through the prism of the brutality of the Indian state, and the pro-independence demands of separatists. But there is another part of the story that has remained unrecorded and buried. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is the unspoken chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which it was purged of the Kashmiri Pandit community in a violent ethnic cleansing backed by Islamist militants. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed, and about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss.

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I wouldn’t have read this book if a reader hadn’t brought this title up in the latest season of JLF with the author Rahul Pandita during his talk on ‘The Lover Boy of Bahawalpur’ with journalist Jyoti Malhotra. The mention of OMHBC definitely stirred the present audience and all ears craved the author’s discernment on the much-debated topic of Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits.

I was one of the thousands of migrants who landed each day at the doorstep of India’s capital from every crevice and corner of the country. Like most migrants, I had also come to Delhi in search of a better life, to regain some of what my family had lost during the exodus from the Kashmir Valley. But there was a difference between the other migrants and me. On festivals, and on family functions, or when they were dying, they knew they could go back to where they had come from. I couldn’t do that. I knew I was in permanent exile. I could own a house in this city, or any other part of the world, but not in the Kashmir Valley where my family came from.

This book is a memoir and how do you rate a memoir that is but a heart-wrenching personal saga of loss of one’s home – the heartland of his life and everything surrounding it. It is unfair, unreasonable; least to say, insensitive, and thus, while I rate it, I do so only for the writing, the language, the narration, the effort.

“Another problem is the apathy of the media and a majority of India’s intellectual class who refuse to even acknowledge the suffering of the Pandits.”

The subject matter is one that, in recent days, is much the talk in the entire country owing to a Bollywood film released by a much revered director. That said, this is a much-brutal, much-ignored, much-real account of the untold chapter in the history of Kashmir laid bare by a first-hand witness, also a Kashmiri Pandit, the author.

“During the rule of another governor, Atta Muhammad Khan, Lawrence writes: Any Musalman who met a Pandit would jump on his back, and take a ride.”

Everything you need to know about Kashmir, its history, its people, and the ensuing genocide for decades is captured here, and that it will break your heart to pieces and leave it bleeding for a lifetime, is an understatement. The incidents leading right up to the exodus in 1991 are very well captured and you see a timeline being painted as you read through the pages which makes it easier to draw your own conclusions on the subject. Certain scenes are so evocative that you’ll have them in your memories long after having finished reading. While that is the beauty of the author’s command on the language, it also is gut-wrenching realizing how real, how awful, the reality of it all is.

“For most of us, Kashmir means a calendar hanging in our parents’ bedroom, or a mutton dish cooked in the traditional way on Shivratri, or a cousin’s marriage that the elders insist must be solemnized in Jammu.”

This book is one long relentless attempt by a patriot to turn the country’s attention toward this highly unacknowledged bitter truth that is the brooding plight of Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits, even today; for no fault of their own. Do we need raise a voice or turn our heads away – is an important decision we need to make.

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Don’t listen to what people have got to say. History is harsh, but history is the truth of it all. Read this book to know what humans have done to humans. Maybe it is time to acknowledge the barbarity that has been the mainstream of the lives of Kashmiri Pandits since decades.

Have you read ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy reading till we meet next. Until then, carpe diem! 

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