One of those Café Coffee Day afternoons, catching up with Onir. As usual, he is oscillating between being gung-ho about his films and depressed about life. He mentions that maybe it is high time I do one of the stories for the "I AM" series. Yes, well, sure, why not? What do you want me write?
For many days, we discuss various settings and come up with nothing. I am happy. Have you ever met a writer excited about writing? Then he drops a bombshell, actually make it two. The proposed date for shooting and hmmm… write a story about two women. I stare at him in complete disbelief.
I don't remember when we started talking about Kashmiri Pandits. I am an educated urban Indian woman and like most of my ilk, I know precious little about what happened to them. I know a lot more about what is happening in Kashmir right now-have read the Human Watch issue about Kashmir. But Pandits? I am not too sure if I want to get into it. I do not want to point fingers at any other community but mine. I don't want to seem biased.
The best thing about writing fiction is, it frees me from taking sides. I get to write only about people caught in the crossfire, people like me… for whom most of the time, the world makes no sense at all.
I discuss the basic idea. There isn't much to discuss. Of course, Onir wants it to be about two women. So one becomes a Kashmiri Pandit visiting her house after years of living in exile and the other one a Kashmiri Muslim who has stayed back to witness the mayhem.
I have always wondered about departures, forced or voluntary. We all have experienced them sometimes in life. I have never been sure if departures are bad. I mean, it is only when you leave you have a chance of arriving somewhere, of making something of yourself, of starting afresh, creating a new you. What scares me the most is never having a chance to leave…
Megha just wrote itself. I handed over the script to Onir and forgot all about it. Responses started pouring in to the AV on Facebook. They shook me up. There were too many Meghas and Rubinas out in the world and they were watching us, expecting to break the long silence inflicted on them. I was particularly moved by a piece titled 'My Mother's 22 rooms'.
After that came the trip to Kashmir and Megha became a person of flesh and blood. She stared accusingly at me from the nameplates of crumbling houses. When people leave homes, houses die. Kashmir is littered with their carcasses.
The paradise is lost- lost to those who have left and lost to those who stayed behind.
Sanjay is with us. He is stoic- checking for permissions for shootings, arranging accomodations… yet, memories keep flooding him and I begin to see Srinagar through his eyes. It was nothing like what it is now, wrapped in barbed wire twice over. Sanjay does not let on much. He doesn't speak of what happened unless asked a direct question… I am afraid to ask. I do not want to know. Do not tell me how you ran away leaving everything that you ever had to save your lives. It is unfair I keep saying to myself…too unfair.
Onir and I spend sleepless nights discussing the reasons for this silence; the absence of 24/7 news channels to make it a breaking news, power struggle between the Center and State, ego hassles between the governor and the chief minister, lack of international support… Are we making a list of reasons or excuses?
The only conclusion we reach is that someone benefited from this silence. Who?
I do not want to be an activist- do not want to belong to a camp lest you label me and not want to hear what I have to say. We always do that. Listen to Megha and Rubina's story and be not afraid to tell yours.
My only hope right now is that Megha breaks this silence. After all what is truth unless, you speak it aloud.