Arvind Gigoo, Shaleen Kumar Singh & Adarsh Ajit
Book Review
by Bilhan Kaul
Three men have joined together to produce a book of Kashmiri Pandits in exile. These three men are Arvind Gigoo, S.K Singh and Adarsh Ajit. The book is divided in two parts fiction and non fiction.It is, however, fiction part which is impressive though.Also, writings are no longer complete whether in fiction or non fiction category but are glimpses and sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits in exile. Fiction account is given by such established writers like R.L. Shant, Dr. K.L Chowdhry and A. K  Rehbar among others. But non fiction account is at best a sketchy effort. R. L. Shant in the story “Air you Breathe” showcases dilemma of Kashmiri Pandits.At once persuaded to go to Kashmir, Omkar nath, is torn between his desire to go to his village but is perplexed by double standards of his friends from his village.He comes to Kashmir to participate in meeting but in the end returns to Jammu disappointed and receives cold welcome from his family members. Radhika Koul gives racy account in her story “Fall”. It is racy account in the environs of America and is of course about Kashmir. There was bon-homie between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims and that is what is recalled by Rashneek Kher in his story titled “Unfinished story”. Amidst food taboos and cultural differences they lived peacefully together. M. K. Santoshi’s story The “Kidnapping” is a story of kashmiri Pandit who is abducted by his friend only to find at last moment that his friend was eager to talk and share some moments with him. Dr. K L. Chowdhry in his story Survivor talks about his patient who is on antidepressants. The writer encourages him to tell his experiences only to find he is a survivor of Nandimarg massacre. The patient recalls what happened that night and how, he along with his two month old son, had miraculous escape. But such was not the case with his wife,other son and rest of family members. The writer encourages him to come out of his shell and trauma he had suffered.

There were many conflicting voices in those days of early nineteen nineties.This is what is captured by Prof Tej Nath Dhar in his piece Under the shadow of militancy,an excerpt from the book he has written earlier. A.K. Rehbar bemoans about inter caste marriages and the threat it poses to community.In the end to his reluctant friend he quotes from Mehjoor to drive home his point how identity is important for the community..There are other stories like Adarsh Ajit’s “Blood On Forehead” and excerpts from Siddarth Gigoo,s novel “A garden of Solitude” and Parnita Khar’s A Lost Paradise.It tells us how broken hearted she turns when her family members decide to sell their Srinagar house. Non fiction have K.N Pandita and Shaym koul giving us their experiences post exile.Pandita Sahib exhorts us not to worry about such trifles like identity and language and advises younger generation to move forward.  However author does not understand how important Kashmir is for Kashmiri Pandits.Shaym Koul’s “Humor In Exile” is an impressive piece though.As is the story of “Frozen River” by Dr S. N. Dhar.In the story the author is kidnapped and survives by his wit.It also hammers the point how supremacist attitudes concerning religion has gripped some section of Kashmiri society.Rajesh Dhar’s “cameos in exile” is a school boy stuff and one wonders the poor choice of editors. That is not to say that whatever editors have chosen is the best but is a good glimpse of certain aspects which are vital to Kashmiri Pandits .Prof R.N Koul’s “january 1990″ is at best a half hearted attempt what happened on that night in 1990.In the end he tries to add salt and pepper to his piece by quoting W.B Yeats. We all know, however that English Professors are capable of quoting English poets.

In the end the book is commendable effort and is one more account of countless other accounts given by Kashmiri Pandits.
From Home to House (Writings of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile), edited by Arvind Gigoo, Adarsh Ajit and Shaleen Kumar Singh, and published by HarperCollins Publishers India, is available at all major booksellers in India. In Jammu it is available at Bhartiya Pustakalaya, Jewel; Yak Book Channel, Pucca Dunga; Jay Kay Book House, Residency Road; Oberoi Book Centre, Bahu Plaza and Sahitya Sangam Book Point, Bahu Plaza. The book can be ordered through: and flipkart too.

The write-ups in the anthology bring out Pandits’ nostalgia for Kashmir, their sense of betrayal and their attempts to pick up the pieces and carve a new way for themselves. They are the reflections of a lost and scattered people in an alien land. The anthology holds a mirror to the troubled valley of Kashmir, a mirror from which the reflection of a section of its population is now missing.