Our Moon Has Blood Clots
I ordered this book after a particularly riveting conversation with my Kashmiri best friend; he hasn’t been to Kashmir even once in his 18 years of existence. His family moved away after the exodus and hasn’t looked back. He described his loss as ‘an absence of something very fundamental to who I am’. Despite reading and hearing about the ‘Kashmir issue’ in several contexts, the Pandit Exodus barely ever makes an appearance. I was intrigued. I finally sat down after my end semester exams and read this book in a few hours.
“Kashmir is a memory, an overdose of nostalgia”
Rahul Pandita does not mince his words, he draws you in from the very first page sparing no detail of death or destruction. Although gripping, the narrative progresses slowly, detailing the beauty of the Valley, his family’s history with it, and his early memories of the communal harmony that prevailed before the massacre. His writing is fluid; systematically charting the course of the tension and subsequent violence that laid waste to the Valley. He takes his time, carefully describing every act of betrayal by a Muslim neighbour, friend and ally, the state of denial so many Hindus lived in, and the bloodlust that seemed to overcome so many civilians.
The Pandita family’s decision to abandon their ‘family house that has 22 rooms’ is a crucial point in his narrative, exposing his father’s resigned acceptance and the onset of his mother’s disillusionment. Pandita’s vivid description of his family’s escape to Jammu conveys the growing sense of despair and helplessness amongst the refugees ‘herded like cattle with nowhere to go’. His evocative writing exposes the exploitative practices in exile, the radicalisation of Pandits to serve political agendas, the indignities suffered in silence, and the sense of homelessness that pervaded generations of refugee children. The strongest aspect of Pandita’s narrative is the compelling undercurrents of homelessness and loss of identity that engulf you time and again.
Pandita’s journalistic background is evident in the way he chronicles the horrors of exile; clinical, succinct, and statistical. And this is my biggest bone to pick with this book. Like many other accounts of religious persecution, (for example Taslima Nasrin’s Lajja ) Our Moon Has Blood Clots fails at blending the numbers with the stories. At many points, I felt the narrative break between Pandita’s personal experiences and the context he provided. By the end of the book, the names, dates, figures and descriptions of gore barely evoke any response in the reader. Rahul Pandita’s transformation from author to journalist is complete with his descriptions of Kashmiri Refugee Resettlement Camps that read like articles, focusing on the politics, numbers and contradicting viewpoints rather than stories of the refugees.
However, despite the overwhelming facts and figures Pandita throws at you, there is still a dearth of context. The non linear writing style often leaves the reader guessing; frequent shifts between the present, past and the bleak future without providing details of the climate of violence or peace. Although Pandita elucidates the tragedies of the massacre and the following exodus, he fails to raise, let alone answer, important questions such as the slew of events that led to the massacres, the political agents involved in such systematic ethnic cleansing and the most fundamental, why is the Pandit Exodus an untold chapter in the bloody history of Kashmir?
‘Our Blood Has Moon Clots’ desperately tries to be a memoir and a holistic account of the horrors of 1990, but sadly fails to do both.