“The Saga Of A Brave heart: Lt Col Ajit V Bhandarkar, Shaurya Chakra”

“The Saga Of A Braveheart” (Vij Books India, 2021) is the heart -warming and inspiring story of the late Lt Col Ajit V Bhandarkar, Shaurya Chakra (P), 18 MADRAS (Mysore) /25 Rashtriya Rifles. This courageous officer laid down his life for his motherland battling infiltrating terrorists in the Poonch area of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1999. He killed three of them before succumbing to the grievous injuries sustained in the gun fight. For his courage and exemplary leadership he was awarded the Shaurya Chakra in October 2001.

What makes the book different from most books about soldiering is that it is written by his widow, Veer Nari, Smt Shakunthala A Bhandarkar. It is most admirable that the lady put behind her own deep personal sorrow at the loss of her husband to write this book. That it was written to commemorate Col. Bhandarkar’s 60th birth anniversary and their 30 th wedding anniversary makes this story all the more poignant.

While one cannot generalise, it is true that in India sadly the civilian population, for the most part, have little idea of the life and culture of those in the Armed Forces- who defend our freedom. To this end, Mrs Bhandarkar’s objective of describing slices of life in the Indian Army for a soldier’s wife and family is praise worthy. I do hope that many, many readers will understand from her story not just how difficult it is to be a Army wife but also the magnificent support the Fauj and Faujis provide to their ilk.

The book takes the predictable path of starting from Col Bhandarkar’s childhood and school days, leading on to his experiences in the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy. It continues to track his professional career as a commissioned officer in the famous 18th Battalion, the Madras Regiment (Mysore) till that fateful day in October 1999. However, what makes the story interesting and appealing is that in all these phases, his fellow officers have spoken of Col. Bhandarkar. They have recalled his abilities and character in the different capacities they knew him.

Everyone has praised his integrity, total dedication to his profession and his family, and his ability to relate to others and get the best out of them. He was clearly an effective leader on the path of great achievement.

Despite her personal loss, Mrs Bhandarkar allowed her two boys-who were just 7 and 5 when their father was killed in action – to choose their own careers . Reading about their father, I was not at all surprised that both have become officers in India’s Defence Services. Following his father’s footsteps, the elder boy Nirbhay joined his father’s Regiment 18 Madras while the younger, Akshay joined the Indian Navy.

“Life is a journey and we cannot change destiny” writes Mrs. Bhandarkar. To which level Col Bhandarkar would have risen in the Indian Army can only be speculated. Yet, on reading this book, we feel he would certainly have reached greater heights as he was only 39 when he gave his life for his nation.

I am sure Mrs Shakunthala Bhandarkar’s book about her husband will inspire many young men and women to step forward to serve in the Indian Armed Forces.

Highly recommended.

“Pothe!” A Tribute to Pratap Pothen (1952-2022)

The world lost a talented film actor and director- and I a dear old friend-  with the passing away of Old Lawrencian Pratap Pothen,  Class of 1968, on July 15, 2022. 

There have been many tributes paid to him praising his acting and directorial skills. The aim is not to list all of them but two stayed in my mind: I liked Anand Kochukudy’a article calling him the “Original Hippy of Malayalam Cinema” and Suhasini Maniratnam’s straight from the heart personal tribute , “Farewell My Dear Friend Prathap” in The Hindu. She describes him as an “adorable eccentric” in this tribute to him on India Ahead. 

 It was my good fortune to have known him well since 1959 when I joined The Lawrence School, Lovedale, in the 3rd Std in Prep School. At age 7, leaving home and going to stay alone in a school far away was a totally new experience for me. Pratap, already a boarding school veteran having joined in the 1st Std took me under his wings and we remained close friends ever since.

He was one of the most creative persons I have known. I think he exhibited this trait all through his schooldays (1957-68) at Lovedale.

In 1961, when we were in the 5th in Mr K C Jacob’s Kailas House, our Housemaster “Jakes” asked us to put up an entertainment show with performances of different kinds. Pratap directed and acted in a skit propounding the benefits of the well known Eno Fruit Salt. When he shouted, “Oh no!” he, S N Mohanty and I – who made up the cast- had to hold our guts, moan, and make a sick face, as if in agony. This was repeated a few times till the audience too must have got sick of it. On the shout of “Eno!” we had to be magically transformed as the fizzy Eno did its trick, and become happiness personified.

After being together in Prep School and Kailas House, we went different ways for 6th and 7th – he to South Block and Siwalik, I to North Block and Himalaya. 

We were re-united in the 8th in Mr W J “Mac” McMahon’s Nilgiri House. 

Older OLs of the 60s and 70s may remember that in the mid 60s, Hindustan Lever brought out an innovative toothpaste called “Signal” with its distinctive red stripes. Mr Mohammed Naeem ( known far and wide naturally as “Neem”) was teaching us Health Science. He held forth at great length about Rana tigrina ( the common frog). Male staff in Lovedale in those days taught in suits. The one that Neem wore that day was quite natty- a dark black- grey with thin pin stripes in red. 

As was the custom those days, Pothe (as he was called affectionately by us) raised his hand to ask a question. “Yes, Pothen? What’s your doubt?” asked Mr. Naeem.

With a most innocent look the skilled actor that he was even in those days, Pothe asked, (pointing at Mr Naeem’s suit) , ” Sir, those red stripes!! Do they contain hexachlorophene?” 

In our school days, we used to write home every week. Our letters- almost universally – went along the lines of, ” My Dear Father, How are you? I am well and happy here!” 

Our House Master, “Mac” insisted that we maintain this habit during the holidays and write to him every week! One year on our return to school, Mac addressed us, ” I received letters every week from all of you. Some of them were quite interesting! The most interesting of them all was from Pothen. He wrote to me on June 28 and said, ” How are you, Sir.? I am waiting to see you in three days. I hope you received my letters of June 21, June 14, and June 7! ” I must say, Pothen, you have demonstrated the skilful use of the calendar.!” 

Lovedale and the school were always close to his heart. He was an integral part of the Class of ’68 and took part in most of their re-unions. This picture of their 50th Year Reuinon at Lovedale- like the others in this post- is through the kind courtesy of Viju Parameshwar, also of the Class of ’68 and also of Nilgiri House. 

Pothe was fun loving, creative, and lived life ( as he famously sang) “In My Way”! 

I know you will want us to laugh with you all the time, Pothe! Stay blessed wherever you are, old friend. 

“Elon Musk” by Ashlee Vance

Of course, I had heard of Elon Musk but I didn’t know much about him. I knew vaguely about the Tesla car and his space endeavors but not much else. It was only recently when we heard that he had put in a bid to buy Twitter for $ 44 billion that I became more curious and wondered who this man was. I knew that he had -and still was – creating big waves in the world of business. My son bought this book by Ashlee Vance for me, titled, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and The Quest for a Fantastic Future”. This was first published by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins, in 2015 and soon became a best seller. I understand that over 2 million copies of this book have been sold.

Musk has been described as being the most daring entrepreneur of our time, as also being ” a modern alloy of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs”. You can’t think of many entrepreneurs- if at all any- who have taken the high risks that he has.

Vance details the life of Elon Musk through the stories of some of his biggest and best known business ventures such as Tesla and SpaceX. The book traces Musk’s childhood in South Africa where he was born in 1971. Reading about the difficult childhood he had makes you admire the man who is today reputedly the richest individual in the world. He went to Canada for his matriculation, then crossed over to the United States, where he was always aiming to live and work. He got his BA and MS from the University of Pennsylvania, then moved to California to pursue his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.

His first venture – a web software company called Zip2 was initially on shaky grounds but grew till it was acquired by Compaq for $307 million in 1999. Musk’s entrepreneurial journey had taken off- far better than he had imagined. After that came X.com and Space X, Tesla, SolarCity and other business ventures- each of which were incredibly daring and different in thought and business approach.

Naturally, life was not a bed of roses. The book covers his initial struggles and the difficulties he faced -in considerable detail. It takes you through the highs and lows in what was for Musk something like a high risk high reward roller coaster ride. What I liked best about Vance’ s book was his relentless endeavor to try to understand the enigmatic and maverick like Musk as an individual. We know from childhood he was quite different from most others. His experiences -then and later -fashioned his personality and life style. It determined the characteristics that set him apart from most other business leaders of his times.

In this book, we get to understand the very futuristic ideas Musk had and backed to the hilt. All his businesses had this aspect in common. They charted a new path. They dared to experiment and cope with expensive failures.

Ashlee Vance is a leading writer in the technology space with extensive knowledge of the world of start ups centered around Silicon Valley. Tony Fadell, creator of the iPad and the IPhone, now CEO of Nest Labs writes: ” Ashlee Vance offers a clear-eyed look at a man who has played the underdog again and again- challenging old thinking and changing the world. I dare anyone to read this book and not be inspired to set their sights a little higher.”

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, this book is for you. It gives you deep insights into the life and mind of a man, whom you cannot help admiring.

“A Higher Loyalty” by James Comey

For many in my generation, mention of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI) in the United States, brings memories of J Edgar Hoover. He was Mr FBI for citizens of the US and indeed many other parts of the world as he held that position from 1947 to 1972. After Hoover there have been many Directors of the FBI but I, and most others, don’t know much about them. In more recent times, a FBI Director who was very much in the news was James Comey. You may recall that he was fired by President Donald J Trump when he was the seventh Director of the FBI.

Mr Comey has written about his stint as the FBI Director and this incident in a book called, ” A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership “ published by Flatiron Books in April 2018. I read this book recently and found it quite interesting. The essence of the book is Mr Comey’s argument that those holding high office in the US Federal Government owe allegiance to that office and not to whoever happens to be the President of the United States at that point in time. He served as the FBI Director from 2013, when he was appointed to the post by President George W Bush till 2017 when he was unceremoniously fired by President Donald J Trump.

Comey was not a career FBI officer in that he did not start as a FBI Special Agent. He did his Masters in Law from the Chicago Law School then joined the Department of Justice as the US Assistant Attorney in New York. As US Attorney he successfully carried out many cases against organized crime in the New York area, including the dreaded Mafia. Apart from many years in Govt service, Comey also worked for private enterprises such as Lockheed Martin and Bridgewater Associates. He was selected by the Bush administration to become head of the FBI. He writes at length about the personalities he had to deal with during the Bush and the Obama administrations.

Before and during the 2016 Presidential election, Comey was investigating the Hillary Clinton emails case and came under criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike! The Republicans felt he was going soft on the Senator from New York and pressed hard for quicker action against her, while the Democrats felt he wasn’t aggressive enough in defending her in a case which was no longer relevant. Comey explains his role quite candidly and gives us more information than we knew before. Even to this day people believe this case did influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential elections.

During the Trump Presidency, Comey felt he was being directed to be loyal to the President as an individual, which he could not bring himself to do. The book has Mr Comey’s lessons on ethics and leadership. It gives a comprehensive insight into the politics of high office, especially in such a sensitive role as Director of the FBI.

“Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Being an unabashed fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s, I loved “Unaccustomed Earth” a collection of short stories, first published by Albert A. Knopf in 2008. I had the pleasure of reading this recently. Ms. Lahiri was not a new author for me as I had read her famous novel, “Namesake” in the past, as also her first anthology of short stories, called ” The Interpreter of Maladies” some years ago.

You may recall that at age 32, she gained immediate fame for the debut ” The Interpreter of Maladies” in 1999. This collection of short stories received popular acclaim. She received the coveted Pulitzer Prize and it was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for long. The stories were typically set in the East Coast of the United States. I guess all the stories had a common theme. They were about the lives of Indian Americans and the challenges faced by first generation immigrants. The author knew this part of the US the best having grown up there. Ms Lahiri’s parents migrated from India to the UK in the 1960’s and when she was three, moved to the US. She then grew up in the State of Rhode Island.

This collection of short stories, titled, “Unaccustomed Earth” coming as it does, about a decade later, shifts focus somewhat to the second generation of Indian American immigrants. Their lives have been vastly different from that of their parents. Their parents had to struggle to balance between two cultures, the Indian culture which they were born and brought up in, and the one they had voluntarily embraced with their new lives in a different country. For the second generation of Indian Americans, the issues were rather different. The ties with India were not so strong or fading away with time. They faced a new set of challenges being Americans -but of Indian origin.

As always, Ms Lahiri writes in a simple yet elegant manner. Her choice of words, and the descriptions of people and places are deft. They make her characters come alive to the reader. The book has eight short stories, each one more engaging than the other. They have a tinge of sadness that one has come to associate with many of Lahiri’s stories. As always, the characters are primarily Bengali though the stories are set in different places such as Seattle, and Cambridge in the US and London, Rome and Thailand outside of the US. Naturally, the Rumas, the Pranabs and Kaushiks of the stories belong to a world with which Lahiri is so familiar.

It is widely acknowledged that short stories are very difficult to write. Her mastery over this craft is so evident in her writing. Highly recommended for anybody who appreciates excellent writing. This is short story writing of the highest order.

“My Life In Full” by Indra Nooyi

I would recommend this book to every Indian student of business and practicing professionals as well for it was an absorbing read. The full title is “My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future” and it was first published by Portfolio in September 2021.

This is the story of Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi – a middle class Tamil girl born in Chennai, India in 1955, who we now know for having been the CEO of PepsiCo– one of the largest business corporations in the world. There were many firsts in her career. Ms Nooyi was the first woman to become the CEO of PepsiCo , the first person of colour and an immigrant to reach the highest position in a Fortune 50 corporation. For many years, she featured in the list of The Most Powerful Women in the world.

Like most middle-class families in Chennai- if not everywhere in India- the focus of her early life was on attaining a good education. She says in her conservative Brahmin family, “education was everything”. Naturally, from a young age she was accustomed to striving for excellence- a high priority for her family. In her early life, she looked up to her paternal grandfather, apart from her parents, for guidance and support in all that she did.

Nooyi speaks at length about their house in Chennai. We get considerable detail about her life- growing up with her elder sister, younger brother, parents, and grandfather -in a large house where many traditions were followed. She shone in her studies at the Holy Angels Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School, run by Irish nuns, and later at the famous Madras Christian College. In both places, she was an excellent debater and took part in many extra-curricular activities. In those years, it was unheard of to have an all girls rock band but she was part of one!

She then did her Post Graduate Degree in Management from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta . Here she was one of the very few girls in the class, as also one of the few fresh graduates who did not have work experience. On graduation in 1976, she worked with Mettur Beardsell and Johnson & Johnson in India before leaving for the United States for a Master’s degree in Public and Private Management at the Yale University’s School of Management in 1978.

She was selected by the Boston Consulting Group in 1980. Even to this day she rates her experience there very highly. Then followed stints with progressively higher responsibilities at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri, where again she achieved considerable professional success. She then joined PepsiCo in 1994. While still in her early 30s, she was in the Executive Group of a major US corporation. She became the President and Chief Financial Officer in 2001 and was appointed as the CEO in 2006. She held that high office till 2018. During her years at the helm of PepsiCo, the business revenues grew by 80 % to $ 63 billion. There were many strategic initiatives she introduced including her much admired Performance with Purpose program.

Ms. Nooyi is candid enough to admit that she had lucky breaks in her career. Fortunately for her, she had mentors who saw the potential in her and helped her develop skills by pushing her towards challenging assignments.

She got married in 1980 to Raj Nooyi. In the book, she writes at length about the struggles they had managing their careers and their growing family of two daughters. Here too she is quick to give credit to her support system by way of family, especially her mother, and other relatives from her husband’s family who pitched in to help them out. By the way, I never knew that Nooyi is a small village in the Dakshina Kannada district of my home state of Karnataka.

She is often asked about how it was to become a woman in the top echelons of corporate life. All over the world, the infamous glass ceiling frequently restricts women from progressing in their careers. Seldom do they reach the very pinnacle as Ms Nooyi did. In this book she shares her views and suggestions, based on her own experience and her observations after interacting with a wide cross section of women at work across all parts of the world.

Overall it was an interesting book. I admire Ms Nooyi for her candidness in describing her career, her family, and the organisations she worked for and led.

Her story is inspirational indeed!

“Humans of Bombay”

It’s been over a month since I had a blog post here. My apologies. We were busy getting ready for our trip to the United States in the third week of February 2022. You can imagine how much we were looking forward to this trip! After all, we had been largely at home for two years or more due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

So, here we are in San Francisco enjoying a vacation with our son. This reminded me of an earlier post of March 2019 in this blog on” Humans Of New York”. I had written about how much I enjoyed the book by Brandon Stanton. I had wished someday someone would start a similar initiative in India.

I didn’t know at that time that young Karishma Mehta had started “Humans of Bombay” on Facebook way back in 2014. She writes that she started with just 10 photographs in her bank . By the end of the first day, her Facebook Page had a thousand likes, which shot up to 10,000 in the first week. I see now that over 1.3 million people have liked the Facebook Page.

You will find much more information on the “Humans Of Bombay” initiative in their website . This includes links to their blog, press coverage, and how you can collaborate with them.

Recently reading the book – “Humans Of Bombay” – , first published by Popular Prakashan in 2017- was a truly delightful experience. The stories chosen for the book are interesting, touching, and heart warming. They are so easy to relate to for one who has lived a lifetime in India.

Special mention must be made of the photographs which accompany each story in the book. They greatly enhance the interest in the story. Most of the stories are short, a page at best. A small number of them spread over a few pages while a few are made up of just a few sentences! This adds to the charm of the compilation. You will notice that in most of the stories the identity of the person involved is not disclosed.

What makes the book fascinating is that the stories cover people of different ages, religions, and economic strata of society. Yet despite the wide diversity, the issues are real, and people speak from their hearts.

If you want to experience Bombay through the eyes of an interesting cross section of its inhabitants, read this book! As you might know, Bombay has been renamed Mumbai since 1996 but old timers like me are more accustomed to Bombay. As Karishma Mehta herself writes, ‘Read this book, the Bombay way. With some cutting chai and far from healthy vada pav, and if you are away from Bombay, salivate at the thought of it. But for now, allow me to welcome you to the city of dreams.”

Highly recommended.

Action at the IPL Auction

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is probably the richest cricket tournament in the world. Brand Finance, the renowned brand value consultancy pegs its value at $4.7 billion! Naturally, it attracts players from all the major cricket playing countries, and some of the lesser known ones too. Decades ago, the emoluments of India’s cricketers was really measly. They used to envy players from the so called ” developed” countries such as England, Australia, and New Zealand for their compensation. The wheel has turned full circle. In the last decade, players from these very countries hope for a lucrative IPL contact – these could change their fortunes!

This year’s auction was held recently at Bengaluru and 204 players including 67 from overseas were sold for Rs 551 crores. For the uninitiated -in India 1 crore is the equivalent of 10 million. Unlike the last few years, this year there were 10 franchisees bidding for the players with the addition of two new franchisees, the Lucknow Super Giants and the Gujarat Titans.

As if the fast paced action at the auction was not enough, there was a moment of apprehension when the widely respected auctioneer, Hugh Edmeade collapsed and had to receive immediate medical attention. Fortunately he not only responded well to the treatment but was back in action for the concluding part of the auction on the second day!

In Edmeade’s absence, the auctioning was done by Charu Sharma. Overall, he did a good job, I guess. However, I felt at times he was not consistent enough to be a good auctioneer. For some players/teams he was quite liberal with the time he gave for them to decide, for some others he wasn’t half so generous. I also felt he could have been a little more considerate for the young uncapped players. For them this is a make or break opportunity, so maybe a standard time could have been set. We saw some were declared unsold within seconds while others were given more time, which I thought was not fair.

Every IPL auction has its stars who draw the biggest bucks. This article lists the most expensive players over the years, starting from 2008. We have seen, though, that not all of them were very successful in that year. Possibly the sheer pressure of being the highest paid falls heavily on their shoulder. When people begin to calculate how much you cost per ball bowled/faced – you can imagine the pressure the player has to go through!

This year, young Ishan Kishen was the biggest gainer, being paid Rs 15.25 crores to be bought back by a team which did not retain him in the first place, the Mumbai Indians. Each team, as you know, were allowed to retain a maximum of four players, who then would not go into the auction. This brings me to an interesting observation. Should there be a minimum amount fixed for retained players? I ask because many who were not retained got far more by way of the auction. They were better off not being retained!!

The auction went off without a hitch, but there was a controversy when Charu Sharma declared Khaleel Ahmed sold to Delhi Capitals when really he should have gone to Mumbai Indians. He can perhaps be excused as there were so many players to be sold!

The players have made their contracts , now they must earn the big bucks spent on them on the cricket field!

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Statue in New Delhi!

On January 23, 2021, I wrote a blog post here titled, ” Salute To Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” . One more year has gone past and I see far greater interest in the life of this iconic Indian leader than ever before. This is evidenced by a recent event that took place in New Delhi, which I consider momentous.

On January 23, 2022, Netaji’s 125 th birth anniversary , Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that Netaji’s statue would be built at a prominent spot near India Gate in our capital city of New Delhi. Netaji’s birth anniversary is being celebrated as Parakram Diwas honoring his courage and that of his troops- men and women- who fought for India’s independence. As many of you will know, Netaji was at the forefront of the war for independence and his Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauz fought the British troops in important battles such as the one in Imphal in 1943. It is perhaps in the fitness of things that Netaji’s statue will be in the same spot where once stood the statue of the British King Emperor George V !

The target date for its inauguration has already been announced as August 15, 2022, India’s Independence Day. Till the statue is made ready, we will have a hologram of Netaji ‘s statue on display. This hologram is 28 feet high and will be powered by a 30,000 lumens projector.

For the youth of today who may not know much about Netaji as our history books have very little on him, a few facts are worth recounting. In October 1943, Netaji established the Provisional Government of Free India in Singapore which had fallen to the Japanese during World War 2. He was the Head of State and Prime Minster. Currency in the name of the Free India Government was also printed by the Azad Hind Bank. These were more by way of promissory notes that would become official currency once the British were driven away. “Subh Sukh Chain” was declared the national anthem of Netaji’s Free India and the Sher-e-Hind was the highest military honor instituted by Netaji for the troops of the Indian National Army.

Since the close of World War 2, the story of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has seen many twists and turns. There have been so many versions of his death. No one quite knows the truth. A new book will be published in February 2022 which promises to be interesting. This is “Bose: An Untold Story Of An Inconvenient Nationalist” by Chandrachur Ghose. I, for one, look forward eagerly to reading this.

Kashmiri Pandits Still Await Justice

January 19, 1990 may be just another date for you and me. However, for the thousands of Kashmir Pandits who had to flee their homeland leaving behind everything, this date will never ever be forgotten.

Today, on January 19, 2022, if we look back at that tragedy, it is fair to say that the Kashmiri Pandits still await justice. A short recapitulation of events that took place in the Muslim-dominated State which was then called Jammu & Kashmir is given in my blog post of January 22, 2020 titled, ” How Kashmiri Pandits Lost Their Azaadi”.

Today, I saw so many tweets from displaced Kashmiri Pandits that are touching. “32 Years and counting. Our genocide is forgotten” says India 4 Kashmir; ‘Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. What About Our Human Rights? ” asks Gita S Kapoor; ” Shameful that even after all these years, the wiping out of a community from our own land is Not recognised as a Genocide, as an act of Civilizational Terrorism. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” tweets Rati Hegde; . These are but a few of the many tweets expressing anguish that not much has happened to bring those responsible for such targeted human suffering to book.

Shedding blood on religious lines is not new to India as our country was born with this as the gory backdrop. I suggest you read my review of ” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole. for perspective of those far away days. The British were in hurry to leave India, and our politicians were in a hurry to grab power. No one imagined the short term consequences and the enormous cost in terms of human suffering.

After the gruesome murders and carnage that took place during the Partition of India, two events stay in the memory as blots in our “secular” society- the first was the Sikh Massacre in 1984 often toned down to be called Anti-Sikh Riots!! Do read my review of books on this subject elsewhere in this blog. One of them needs particular mention, ” When A Tree Shook Delhi” by Phoolka and Mitta

The second was the Massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. A book worth reading is Rahul Pandita’s, ” Our Moon Had Blood Clots” published in 2013 which captures his memories of fleeing Kashmir as a 14 year old in 1990. No one knows the true figures but certainly hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and their family members were raped, killed, or brutally injured when they- over 350,000 of them- were terrorized in leaving their home by pro- Islamic mobs. Why the then Prime Minster, V P Singh did not call out the Indian Army to bring about peace in Kashmir is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he hesitated because he himself had been elected to power only a month or so ago, and did not want to rock the boat of a fragile coalition which he ran.

How the story of the Kashmiri Pandits will end is anybody’s guess. It is astonishing that for far lesser crimes, thousands all over the world -especially certain NGOs -scream about the abuse of Human Rights and Democratic Values. For the hapless Kashmiri Pandits, sadly, there hasn’t been a whisper from them- just a frosty silence. Strange are the ways of our democracies in recognizing and addressing human suffering.