I have seven homes in India, Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Orissa, Tamilnadu, and Delhi and so I am truly all Indian. Let me mention about them one by one, in separate posts. This post is about Kashmir, my first home
I am a Kashmiri Pandit. There are two kinds of Kashmiri Pandits, the Kashmiri speaking ones, and the non Kashmiri speaking ones. The non Kashmiri speaking Kashmiri Pandits ( like myself) are those whose ancestors had migrated from Kashmir valley about 200 years back. These Kashmiri Pandits all migrated in exactly the same way, that is, they got employment in some princely state, i.e. in the Court of some Maharaja or Nawab ( they got such jobs as Kashmiri Pandits were highly proficient in Urdu and Persian, the Court languages). The ancestors of Pt. Nehru, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, etc had all come from Kashmir in this way.Having left Kashmir, they forgot the Kashmiri language after about two generations, and know only,Hindi and English. My estimate is that they are between one and two lacs in number. My own ancestor, Pt. Mansa Ram Katju migrated from Kashmir about 200 years ago and got service in the Court of the Nawab of Jaora. Jaora is a town in Ratlam district in western Madhya Pradesh, on the border of Rajasthan. My family lived in Jaora for several generations
The Kashmiri speaking Pandits ( like my wife) are those who can speak Kashmiri ( apart from Hindi and English). Such Kashmiri Pandits are those who remained in Kashmir, and would be today about 3 lacs in number ( most of them fled from Kashmir after the selected killings of Kashmiri Pandits from 1989 onwards). Kashmiri language is totally different from Hindi, and when my wife speaks to her relatives in Kashmiri I cannot understand,though we have been married for over 40 years.
Though the non Kashmiri speaking Kashmiri Pandits had left Kashmir about 200 years ago, they married only among themselves, and not with the local Pandits or other communities. Also, they retained their food habits. They are non vegetarians, their preference being for Kashmiri mutton dishes, e.g. roghanjosh, yaqni,kabargah, kofta, rista, etc, apart from vegetarian dishes like dam aloo, haq, etc.
Although such Kashmiri Pandits had migrated about 200 years ago, we never forgot Kashmir, and proudly called ourselves Kashmiris. We were like the Jews who had migrated a long time back from their homeland, but said in their prayers :
" If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
let my right hand forget its skill
If I do not remember thee
let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth"
Psalm : 137.5
The same was always our sentiment for Kashmir
Despite leaving Kashmir so long ago, we would perform the Kashmiri Pandit religious rituals regularly, e.g. Shivratri puja, pun, etc. I remember when I was very young on Shivratri day my family members used to go in a procession to a door, behind which was another family member. We used to say " Kuch choo, kuch choo", and the person inside would say, "Kay heyth ", and we would say " An dhan Laxmi", and then the door would be opened and we would enter. It was only after my marriage with a Kashmiri speaking lady that I came to know what we had been chanting for 200 years without understanding its meaning ( like many people chanting Sanskrit mantras). In Kashmiri language, ' kus choo ?" means "who is it?". "Kus choo" became "Kuch Choo" after 200 years, and "kay hyeth" i.e. ' what have you brought with you ?", became "kay heyth". It was only when my wife told us the meaning of what we had been chanting for 200 years that we understood its meaning.
Although the Kashmiri Pandits who had migrated about 200 years ago were only a tiny community in the regions where they had settled, their influence ( like that of the Parsis, another tiny community) far outweighed their numbers. We were a highly respected intellectual community, and having first taken up service in some princely state, in a later generation we entered the legal profession, where we excelled. In U.P. not only were some of the top lawyers in the Allahabad High Court Kashmiri Pandits, in about one half of the district Courts in U.P. the leader of the bar was a Kashmiri Pandit ( though in each town we were only a few dozen in numbers). The same was the position in many other north Indian states where Kashmiri Pandits had settled
Still later many of us entered the civil services, or became business executives, etc, and some migrated to foreign countries.