This book is 'brave attempt' and an 'openly personal account'. It is man's take on how minorities can be treated under the frenzy of religious chauvinism but he hasnt forgotten to add his unnerving faith in humanity, always reminding us, even in the darkest of the hours, that we are humans first. The book, in the midst of providing bigger picture has always kept the ties of a family at the forefront. Of how the raison d'etre of the lives of his parents was always their children.
The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits which took place in the year 1989 and 1990 with the intent of making Kashmir independent (or to be administered under Pakistan) has been told and retold in every page through eyes of docile Hindus who resided in Kashmir for centuries, as Pandits and who lost everything they had. Their homes, fields, jobs, identities (a lot were subjected to conversions), kins. What else does a man posses? Over half a million people were effected, out of which more that three hundred thousand were made to leave on the whip of overjoyed Muslims.
The early part of the book, in which Rahul has narrated the customs and culture, made me realize that I as a Hindu have long forgotten similar practices which were once part of my life too. What I am hinting at is the excessive Modernity which has crept into our lives. For eg. Goodreads has taken over space which Saraswati Mata used to occupy. The Shloka, Vidyam Dehe Saraswati almost brought goosebumps whenever it occurred in the book. It had been years I had read a shloka and it did brought memories of Basanat Panchami when we used to put our books in the Mandir(temple) and pray for better marks. This was once done, ritually. Perhaps, its only when your faith is challenged that you know you have one. Personally, this book has left a deep imprint on my views on faith and religion.
He has also provided a detailed account of what all Kashmiri Pandits(as ancestors) have been contributing to in all these centuries and how they've always faced the brunt of carrying the Hindu flame at the hands of invaders, this being till 2014. The works of Kalhana, the famous author of Rajtaringini, Abhinavgupta, Somdeva, Ratnavaja, Kshemendra, Bilhana etc have found honourable mention for their contributions.
One of the five parts of the book takes us back into 1947 through the eyes of one of Author's relative who provides details about the even brutal times he had seen at the hands of Tribal invasion which occurred when Kahsmir wasnt even the part of the Republic of India. The Tribals or the Kazakhs who came marauding on the Kashmiris looted them till death and went away. It was only after this ghastly rage that the then King of J&K, finally acceded to India and then upon deployment Indian army pushed the tribals away.
This book is a story of exile, exodus and extermination of Kahsmir Pandits, who are suffering till date. The magnificent houses which they had once resided into are reduced to tiny flats across the country.
This book also talks about the resilience and non-retaliatory example which Kashmiri Pandits have show to the entire India. They lost their homes but never lost their humanity.
This book has given an entirely new understanding on secularism and the use of Government services (Security), in-time and effectively so that an entire segment of population could, in the future be safeguarded if not saved. I do think that we have come a log way from what happened in 1990 but till we have religion you never know. :-/