Par Gaggur

Par Gaggur
(an outsider rat in Kashmiri)
Veerindar Patwari

Dedh, a grand old lady in my town in Kashmir, is believed to be more than a hundred years old. She is considered the wisest lady by some and others think she is an eccentric old woman who should not be taken seriously.

When I saw her for the first time she was alone and busy spinning a wheel talking to four walls of the room. Her expression was intriguing as if conveying some authentic information to her surroundings. I was told that she has been repeatedly saying something for years but people around her don’t pay any attention to her. She has been making all attempts to be heard and in the process she had tried hard to increase her lung power, by screaming louder and louder, till one day she lost her voice. Now she only moves her lips as if trying to speak. Her facial expression suggests that she knows the real secret and wants to share it with others. But the hoarse sound coming from her throat is not understandable. Her whispers sometimes change in to a musical intonation as if she is singing. But when one tries to get to the feeling of the sound, there is a sad expression of whining. My mother once told me that this kind of sad singsong expression is called leela in Kashmiri which womenfolk say when somebody dies or some mishap occurs.

When I heard her singsong it really touched me to the core and I felt the helplessness of an old woman who wanted to convey something. But when she was audible nobody tried to listen to her and now she is unable to speak any understandable words to express herself. Nobody in her vicinity could tell me what she wanted to convey because they didn’t understand it either. It was only Lassa who seemed to know what she was saying. He has voluntarily taken the role of an interpreter for her as and when anybody asks him about Dedh.

While sitting on the door of her house to guard Dedh, Lassa keeps watching everything around him and his curious eyes keep on looking for familiar faces! But he is unable to spot the ones he is expecting to see – the natives in forced exile! Every day when Lassa gets up and looks around he is reminded of the fact that more than twenty years ago some natives were compelled to run away for their life. They left behind their homes with no clue where they were heading, with the hope and confidence that they would return after a month when things improve and Kashmiriat takes over fanaticism. But that one month hibernation never ended and they did not return. Their ‘vanvas’ far exceeded Pandavs and lord Rama’s exile. It is almost a quarter of a century now and possibility of their return in near future is like a miracle, if at all it happens! Like many others in the town, Lassa also believes in this assumption but still he is waiting for the return of those natives who are internally displaced people, internationally known as migrants!

Having known the truth from Dedh, Lassa quietly observes the extent of misinformation and false propaganda projected by media against his brethren, called migrants even though they have not migrated out of their choice but forced to leave and exist as displaced people within their own country. But he firmly believes that falsehood is misleading darkness and truth is a bright light which wipes darkness. He hopes that reality will ultimately be unmasked when truth is known globally! That is why he regularly watches BBC and CNN with a lot of hope that someday truth will prevail. Sympathizers encourage him and he feels as if he has spotted a beam of light emanating from the sun engulfed by dark clouds. He knows dark clouds predict torrential rains but hopes to see the beam of the sunrays melting away the clouds and dispersing bright sunshine all over the place! He regularly peeps through the misty glass windows with the hope to recognise the natives in exile who have returned home and normalcy has returned in his neighbourhood after years of turmoil! But his optimism is thrashed in to pieces, when he doesn’t see any of them. Instead he notices war mongers looting and burning the empty houses!

This is his daily routine. He helplessly looks at strangers who indulge in burning temples, and doors and windows of the houses where they have taken shelter to hide. These outsiders enjoy the warmth of burning houses and create sensations to seek global attention. Lassa is distressed to see a majority of locals quietly resigning to the situation created by bad elements and outsiders by remaining silent, and many of them even contended with the present dispensation. They are quietly watching the situation without a whimper of resentment on their faces. They shout and scream “azaadi” and “jihad” but never talk about Lalded or Nundreshi – sufi saints of Kashmir! Some of them even try to throttle those rare voices who admire Hindu kings like Lalitaditaya and humane Sultans like Budshah! Frightened Lassa keeps watching his surroundings while burning inside slowly and invisibly - like a fire in a heap of cotton which burns without a flame or smoke!

Lassa unfolded the story to me. He shared the secret what Dedh has been trying to tell the people for the last twenty five years. Dedh wants to warn people against non-natives, outsiders who always had an eye on the happiness and prosperity of Kashmiris. She wants to tell them what Takhiks (serpents who enters the house in disguise) and Demons have been doing to Kashmiris since ages!

In olden days Demons used to keep their eyes on the huts of Hermits like hawks and the targeted Hermits kept on waiting for miracles with their faith on the presence of idols of gods worshipped in their houses! The Demons would not be deterred by their faith or divine power and harassed Hermits eventually surrendered and made offerings to please the Demons. But the unpredictable Demons used to take them for a ride even after accepting offerings! They would make them scapegoats and guinea pigs to implement their mission of targeting and conquering forts, cities and villages one after another!

Dedh used to frequently remind Lassa that idols of gods present in the house become redundant when intruders like Ravan exploit the innocence and negligence of Seeta and make the defense lines irrelevant. But a vigilant human being can guard his own interest and keep harmful elements away from his house ! It was this human vigilance she was crying for when suddenly she woke up in the morning one day and started telling everybody that Par-Gagur (a non-native rat coming from outside) has succeeded to enter our house.

Lassa, alarmed by Dedh, obediently kept a watch on his surroundings all the time so that he could immediately spot imposters, ruffians and thieves who dared to appear in his neighbourhood. While chasing mischief mongers he would roar like a lion to alarm everybody in the village. He protected all the children in the area while they naively played outside their houses without any suspicion or fear. He even kept hens and chicks away from cats and kittens. His proficiency as a guard was like the extraordinary attributes of birds who respond and raise alarm on spotting a snake or sensing a tremor.

Dedh also used to give some allegories which I don’t understand……”Lassa frankly acknowledged.“ She said that there are inherent tendencies every living creature has - a snake bites the person who feeds it with milk – a cow keeps on giving milk despite watching her calf not getting it- a cat with her bale full keeps on targeting rats !”

“She also said that pepper cannot be sweet and sugar can never be bitter !” Lassa referred to Dedh’s description of inherent evil in those who have entered the valley with ulterior motives. Over a period of time Lassa had also seen it for himself that defeated warmonger never reconciled and continued to create attention seeking situations. They got disgraced again and again but continued infiltrating in the house like Par Gagur (non-native/outsider rats) displaying sincere friendship to begin with. But later on exploited the vulnerability of innocent people, by projecting castles in the air and giving false promises, they mislead the native rats (Gar Gagur).{ ‘Par-Gagur’ and ‘Gar-Gagur’ both symbolically represent outsiders and natives in Kashmiri conversations}. The outsiders kept on projecting imaginary glories, spread false rumours to create favourable selfish political vibes. They not only hid the truth from innocent people but provoked and misled the inhabitants in the name of religion. They did not desist threatening them at gun point with psychological warfare created by public meetings and processions using loud speakers and print media.

These outsiders kept on creating communal tensions with riots and strikes! They paralysed the markets to create financial bottlenecks to traders and influenced the hearts of natives. They enjoyed Kashmiri Wazwaan at the cost of destruction of Kashmiri economy. This is the reality which is not known to outside world. Dedh anticipated it but nobody listened to her. Lassa is convinced what Dedh thinks but is a lone voice drowned in the mass hysteria of jihad!

Tight lipped Lassa also knows that apart from his brethren identified as migrants who have been thrown out of the valley, some of his native brethren continue to be taken as a hostage within their own habitat. Dedh used to tell him that duck chicks leave the hen’s company when they spot water. That is why he hopes against hopes that when the native hostages spot their migrant brethren they will be united again and once more Kashyp Rishi’s Kashmir will restore its lost glory.

Lassa has been watching global television since twenty five years to hear the truth from somebody else but the watchdogs are quiet. Either they don’t know the truth or they are deliberately silent for their own selfish reasons. In desperation when he goes to hilltop and screams loudly to complain to the mighty Pir Panjal mountain range, even his echo does not reply him back. He is alone searching and waiting for natives! He feels heartbroken to watch dramatized performance of politically correct and opportunistic sympathisers who promote their own agenda. They neither involve migrants in discussion nor acknowledge presence of local hostages who have also been suffering like their migrant natives. Lassa’s quest is like a mirage - searching water in a desert, looking for stars during an eclipse! But a beam of sunshine peeping through the dark clouds keeps his hopes alive.

When I left Kashmir I carried the warning in my mind which Dedh is trying to convey for quarter of a century, and I also keep my optimism up with the hope Lassa has ! But I am suddenly frightened to imagine something more sinister than I could think of. While taking a tour of Downtown Aquarium in Denver, in the United States, my tour guide introduced another dimension to this tale of misfortune and hollow optimism. He described the characteristics of lionfish which has kindled a sudden fire of fear and restlessness in my heart and is thrashing my mind with painful blows.

“Invasive lionfish are disastrously out-breeding, out-living, out-eating and out-competing every other native fish in the Western Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. If left unchecked lionfish will ultimately cause the destruction of the reefs, native fish stocks and the livelihoods of everyone that depend upon them……..” the tour guide said. Dedh referred to the external forces as Par-Gagur but I see the real phenomenon as something more dangerous than that. Gar-Gagur has a hope to come back home someday to reunite with the natives. But the native fish is likely to be eliminated by the invasive lionfish if not controlled. The invader lionfish, more dangerous than the par gaggur, first got rid of some of the natives as migrants, caged others as hostages, and now this venomous and skilled hunter is going to consolidate the rest, including the silent spectators, opportunists and manipulators…. !

The deadly invader, the lionfish, is known to be nocturnal hunter who pounces on the innocent victims without giving any opportunity to save themselves. Dedh can’t warn people against the imminent danger because she is unable to communicate, Lassa is not strong enough to raise his voice, natives are either driven out or kept hostages, the rest of the natives who did not object to this invader till now are soon going to be preyed by the invader ! Who will stop this deadly march of the lionfish, who replaced the par gaggur long ago and has meticulously planned to take over Kashmir?
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Added By Ramesh Razdan