SRINAGAR: On a scorching August afternoon, Rahul Thusu’s car stopped at the busy Habba Kadal area. Away from the public gaze, he slipped into a narrow alley at Zaindar Mohalla to look for his Muslim uncle Bashir Ahmad Raina.
“I am Rahul, your nephew,” exclaimed Rahul. A pin-drop silence gripped the household. A tight hug ensued and tears flowed uninterruptedly. “How is your mom? Please put me on a video call. I want to talk to my sister,” said Raina.
For hours, the Muslim brother and the Pandit sister discussed 30 years of separation. Tears welled up their eyes. From discussing childhood to present-day Kashmir, the brother-sister duo talked for hours just to overcome the pain of separation.
Rahul and his Kashmiri friend Keeyan Sidiq Mir pulled off a unique initiative to connect with the roots. Rahul met Keeyan some eight years back in New Delhi and became great buddies.
Keeyan, who is a blogger, toyed with an idea to connect Rahul to his roots. Rahul, who works in the service industry, has never been to Kashmir since his parents migrated in the early nineties.
It was decided that Rahul would visit Kashmir in 2020. Luck had however other things in store. Pandemic broke out and the lockdown was imposed. Programme was postponed again. Come August 2021, Rahul decided to revive the plan and visit his roots.
“For the last 30 years, nobody from our family has visited Kashmir. I was born in Zaindar Moholla but brought and bred in Delhi. My parents have never visited Kashmir. We had a house in Zaindar Mohalla,” said Rahul.
Crisscrossing through the narrow lanes and by-lanes of Habba Kadal, Rahul and Keeyan went on an expedition. “I wanted to show my mother her birthplace through my eyes. It was an emotional moment. For 12 days, I was in Kashmir. My mom was enquiring about everything. She always said whether I visited this place, whether I met this person. She was in tears because after a long time she saw the land where she used to move around without fear,” he said.
Personally, Rahul was eager to visit his place of birth because he had only heard about Kashmir through others. “I was born at home, not in the hospital. So I wanted to see the place where I was born. I met many people. It was a great thing,” said Rahul.
For Rahul, tasting local cuisine was a must. “I could not resist the nader-munj temptation. I munched so many and it was a lifetime experience,” he said.
When he left, his Muslim uncle dropped him at the airport. Memories and selfies were the only things he carried along
“I used to study and work in New Delhi. Kashmiri pandits and Muslims always love each other. I told him to come to Kashmir. And that is how this plan materialized,” said Keeyan.