Anupama’s Heavenly Birthday
Her word was soft,
Her footsteps were softer,
Yet her presence was louder than others.
Today we grieve the friend we lost,
The light that was shut off,
The voice that is heard no more.
We find you now in the corridors of heart,
In the recesses of our shared memories,
In the solemn hopes of a better world.
Suffern, New York, Dec. 3, 2020
KOA Presidential Elections 2020
Dear KOA Biradari,
In 1977 I attended, what is considered now the first meeting of an organization that later was called Kashmir Overseas Association, at Surinder and Mohini Nath’s residence in Washington D.C. There were about eight people in attendance. After the talk about the advantages of having an organization of KP’s in U.S., it was resolved unanimously that we should go ahead with the practical steps to a launch it. It was only in 1983 that a full-fledged organization, called Kashmiri Overseas Organization, with legal registration, was set in motion. I guess the not-for- profit status, IRS 501(c)(3), was obtained by then. Rest is history as they say.
So, KOA is approximately forty years old, and has at this time a membership of 800 families. If we assume each family to comprise of four members, then we have about 3,200 members. But based on KOA Directory and other sources it is estimated that there are 1,500 KP families in U.S. That is, 700 families are not KOA members. The reason for that most likely for most of them is the payment of membership fees. Though the annual membership for a family for a year only costs $50, and for senior members only $25. Most of the KP’s in U.S. are well off, holding professional jobs, placed in the upper middle class. I believe KOA has to reach these families and explain to them the benefits of a KOA membership, especially the participation in the cultural traditions of our community and the chance to be counted in the ongoing crusade over the forced KP diaspora.
But whatever the state of the membership of KOA and its financial health, it is the organization that helps us focus on our roots, civilization, ethos, and future. It is a precious citadel we all have built, brick by brick, over the last forty years. We want to not only keep it secure but also expand it and make it even better than what it is now. It is our inspiration, strength, and future.
During Shakunji’s presidency (2017-20), which is just coming to an end, tremendous progress was made in wooing KP youth into KOA through many programs her administration launched. The present KP leadership, inside and outside KOA, comprises of many KP’s who came to U.S. in 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s. So, they must be in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Obviously, the future KOA leadership has to come from much younger segment of the community. KOAY, the KOA youth program has 800 followers in the country, two national directors, and ten zonal representatives. We have to continue to prepare our youth for the leadership roles that they sooner or later have to play.
Shakunji’s administration also digitalized almost all of KOA operations. This was a lot of excellent work done, initiated substantially by her predecessor Sunilji Fotedar. Look at the KOA website, you cannot help but feel impressed. She also maintained good relationships with the different segments of the community, both here as well as in India. She also rose to the occasion during the 2019 A370 & 35 A revocations, which provoked Muslim community here. This was a tricky work for her as KOA is a not-for-profit organization. Most of the KOA operations ran smoothly under her tenure. The community should thank her for the excellent work she did. But the rub is that she cannot serve another term, as the KOA constitution forbids it. The two-term limit instituted during Mr. Suresh Raina’s presidency is a talent-breaker. Which means that if a president has proven that he was talented in serving as a KOA president, and is keen to go for more terms, why should we stop him from doing that, as long as he is elected after every two years. There have been times in KOA’s history when we have had shortage of people suitable for KOA presidency. This article must be removed from the KOA constitution.
Like many not-for-profit organizations, KOA gets short of revenues at times. We have to follow one of the well-known remedies for this problem: go to the wealthy KOA members for donations. Number of KP’s in U.S. are doing well financially. KOA is well-organized and talented but unable to launch more desirable projects for want of funds.
The survival of KOA for the next decades depends on these three factors:
- It should be able to attract the KP youth, as the older generation leaves the scene.
- It should be able to keep its personality intact by holding on to KP civilization and ethos. Because that is our identity, and without that we cannot survive as a group, especially in a foreign country.
- To address (2) indicated above, KOA has to keep its social, cultural, and religious programs going at full speed. So, it should be adequately funded. The present revenue generating systems have to be modified, if we want to survive.
This brings us now to the subject of who should we vote for the next president. We have two candidates running for the election. What should be the criteria for selecting one of them as the next president of KOA.
As I have indicated earlier our next president should be someone who is young, in about his or her 40’s to 50’s, at the most. The reason for that is the energy he or she will have to expend to perform as a KOA president, besides taking care of his or her regular job. But also due to his or her younger age he or she will connect better with the KP youth. As the older KP leaders, inside and outside KOA, are retiring, and as KP youth population will eventually topple over the older KP population in KOA, there is a solid rationale in selecting a younger person as the next KOA president, compared to what we have been selecting in the past.
Ashishji Raina, from Chicago, is not only in the right age range, but also his personality is in sync with the role he would have to play as a KOA president. He is intensely drawn to our KP civilization and ethos. I was very surprised to see this aspect of his personality, as generally younger KP’s are not that much drawn to them. Furthermore, he has high ambitions in expanding KOA by bringing in many of the estimated 700 KP families stated above who are not currently KOA members. He believes correctly that many of the KOA zones need chapter presidents or additional chapter presidents to run the full gamut of our cultural celebrations. He believes we can set up Whatsapp groups within zones for more effective communications. He, being an IT professional, thinks we can use computer technology to more effectively organize our work and programs. His other qualities are humility and unpretentiousness. Look at the excellent work he has done so for as a KOA volunteer and chapter president in KOA, Chicago area. Also, look at his vision of the future KOA:
After going over the above links you will see that Ashishji is the person we would like to invest our hopes in for the future of KOA.
Maharaj Kaul, November 2, 2020; Rev. Nov. 3
Qabali Raid in Kashmir, Oct. 22, 1947
I have not read a more thorough description of the 1947 Qabali Raid than what Shanti Swarup Ambardar has given in his book, Day of Destiny, A Memoir, published in 2014. He was in Srinagar at that time and closely followed the raid. He even interviewed some survivors of the St. Joseph’s Convent and the Mission Hospital at Baramulla, which bore the brunt of the attack at Baramulla.
I am attaching here below the entire chapter of Ambardar’s book, ‘Qabails’ at the Door, 13 pages long.
I strongly recommend KP’s to read Shanti Swarup Ambardar’s book Days of Destiny, as it reflects on their or their relatives’ lives before and after their tragic forced diaspora from Kashmir. It will make them re-absorb the veil of the rich cultural tapestry they lived under, their serene and nuanced existence in the land of their forefathers and gods. Others should read it to understand why Kashmiri Pandits are so pained to leave their motherland, when other people in history who were also forced to undergo that have borne it relatively calmly. The book’s 565 pages may daunt some, but they should then think of it to be two books on Kashmiri Pandits’ culture and ethos. The fateful tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits as narrated in this book moves you deeply.
- Read my complete review of the book:
2. The following link will take you to the book website where you will find a tab to order the book, the author’s bio, some chapters of the book, etc.
- The most important part of this posting, Ambardar book’s, 13 pages long chapter on the Qabali Raid of Oct. 22, 1947, “ ‘Qabails’ at the Door” is in the following link:
Suffern, New York, October 31, 2020
Reflections on Human Happiness
Life Comes with No meaning at its Birth
It is correct that human life does not come with a meaning at its birth, but it is endowed with a strong biological force to live right from that point on till its end.
This strong will to physically survive forms the basis of the mental existence of most of the human beings. If we did not have that force within us, many humans would end their lives due to their painful struggle with the extreme economic, social, cultural, and political forces opposing their existences. So, life does come with a rai·son d’ê·tre for its existence.
Happiness is A Human Creation
The other meanings we give to our existences are purely human creations, nothing to do with the universe. But they can be significant to humans. Let us say a man wants to devote his life to the upliftment of the downtrodden. It is perfectly meaningful. The existential state of man is such that while he is born without a purpose, but he can pick up one from the rich oeuvre of human culture. If he does not pick any, then most likely he will lead a frustrated and unfulfilled life. Therein lies the drama of human existence. So, the art of a meaningful existence is to pick one of the purposes that best suits one’s abilities and personality. If you do not pick any you will still survive, but with a lot of struggle and woes. For a common man, even devoting his life to his family is meaningful. Many artists, scientists, and humanists devote their lives to a purpose higher than their lives. That is being absolutely creative. Einstein emphasized creativity in pursuit of existence. Otherwise, you may end up being a neurotic, alcoholic, or a bum. But since many people are incapable of being creative, and do not have a philosophical disposition, they end up being religious, to save their life from insanity and ruin. So, happiness is achievable if one is creative and philosophical.
It is the ultimate irony of human life that though it comes with no meaning at birth, but man is compelled to give it some in order to live an organized, healthy, and a calm life.
Suffern, New York, October 26, 2020
In Search of Happiness
A human being is born mostly as a physical system, which later on evolves into a physical and mental system. Together two of them propel human life, under the guidance of the latter. The need for happiness only arises when the combined system is unable to fend off general unhappiness and peace of mind. Left to himself man would be peaceful as long as physical needs were taken care of. But the great problem is that he is not left to himself. He lives in a world, which comprises of society, culture, economy, politics, and other things. So, man’s life is complex, and because of that his happiness may become difficult to achieve. Much can be written on the guidelines to achieve if not happiness, at least peacefulness, as we have a lot of experience from the past. Following are my salient points to achieve a reasonable level of peacefulness:
A person has to have goals in life, even when he is old. An idle mind is a terrible drag to peacefulness, it can even create a harmful mental state. Examples of goals are improving on the knowledge of a subject one has greatly cherished, acquiring knowledge of new subjects, writing one’s memoir, joining a humanitarian group, traveling to a place known for its beauty or history, etc. There are a huge number of good goals that cultivate peacefulness. The chosen fields must appeal to your heart and mind.
Look at human beliefs and activities as ideas. Then choose the ideas that are close to your heart. This is significant, as according to popular philosophies on how to be happy, you pick up what is close to your heart. But I am introducing the idea that man’s work should be appealing as an idea also, besides it being close to his heart. Living entirely to satisfy your heart may not survive very long, as a heart at times can be fickle. Ideas are the building blocks of human mind, so they are enduring.
3.Member of The Human Community:
Consider yourself to be a member of the human race, not of this group or that group only. This affiliation puts you at a higher level of existence. You will be happier feeling part of the mankind.
4.Do Not Be Afraid of Death:
A human being’s life is finite, sooner or later he has to return the gift of his life to God or nature, depending upon whom he believes is the life-giver.
5. Belief in God or Science:
If you are fifty or above your belief in God or science would have already been established. You may even believe in a hybrid system where religion and science coexist. Let it remain so. Do not embark on a new search now.
6. Love of Nature:
Even if you are religious you should cultivate a love of nature. Our bodies are all nature. Feeling closeness with nature will enhance the quality of your life.
7. Love of Mankind:
You should love mankind, even if you hate some of its individuals. This gives you a feeling that you are not alone but belong to a big group. Feel a brotherhood with mankind. Have some heroes, they will inspire you. Their stories will enrich your life, as they are a living example of greatness that some us have achieved.
The above ideas form the large-scale architecture of human happiness, but for every man there may be some special things which are uncompromisable for his happiness.
Man has not basically been designed to be happy or sad, but to live with his environment peacefully. But when this environment is disturbed, unhappiness is born.
Suffern, N.Y., September 25, 2020
What is the purpose of human life?
Every Day Life is a Quest for the Unknown
Every day life is a quest for the ideas that will carry us happily to the other shore,
Every day our material existence is an anchor-line to our happiness and dreams.
Every morning a sleeping hope struggles to wake up,
To try out the theory that life produces what you sow in it.
Every day is a tumultuous exercise in the hope of creating happiness,
But some days end in despair as we may capture nothing tangible.
Every day we see the same tussle of ideas, idealists versus the realists,
Pessimists overpowering optimists, fact-checkers striking on dreamers.
Arguments on life deter us to enjoy it,
Why was it created in the first place, to what purpose?
A state of mind, like an action-drenched brain, stays on course,
Intensity with endurance is the vehicle of dreams.
In our times material well-being is considered endowed with happiness,
But we know most of the rich people are not happier, only more comfortable.
God made human beings from the atoms of dreams, love, and hopes,
Anything that destroys this ethereal fabric destroys life.
Suffern, New York, July 25, 2020
Welcome after your long journey on high oceans,
Storms and lost directions, confusions and calamities,
The world is a cyclone without a rest,
It defies meaning and feeling.
While you were there you made it look easy,
You were ever adorned with smile and grace,
Little did people know you travelled light,
Dropping riches and recognition on the way.
Tomorrows were waiting for you in serene joy,
The burdens of yesterdays were discarded,
Todays were smooth happenings,
Unrehearsed and goalless.
The world around was moving by a success design,
But you were fixed on serendipitous experience,
What was their severe defeat was your placid victory,
They possessed but you absorbed.
Now you are a denizen of eternity,
Where time has frozen and materials vanished,
There is a time to sing and a time to pray,
A time to dance and a time to laugh.
Suffern, New York, July 7, 2020
Grace and Courage : Anupamaji is No More
When I met her first many years ago in India, I was stuck by her reticence. She sat with noble quietness. After a while I felt that it fit very well with the architecture of her rectitude. Great personalities, generally, are quieter than the common folk. I guess it is because they are more communicating with themselves, rather than with others.
I learned through a common friend that Anupamaji had been divorced many years ago, so she must have managed her life by herself. That is indicative of her courage and tenacity. Quiet people often have gumption.
Recently I met her while she was traveling outside India. Again, I was stuck by her gracefulness and quietness. Behind her sleek demeanor must have resided toughness and discipline.
The world is a poorer place without Anupamaji. Her family has lost a strong anchor, her friends a shoulder to lean on. The richness of her personality cannot be easily described. I would attempt to describe her as a large, strong, perennial tree in a garden, which is always there to sooth you silently. But now with its absence one will be able to reliably measure its strength.
Anupamaji, you now belong to eternity, where angels dance and sing the glory of righteousness and redemption.
Suffern, New York, July 14, 2020
I Look Back Neither in Pain or Despair – Babu’s Soliloquy from Heaven
I have been in the pastures of heaven now for about five weeks:
Quiet and unhurried, swimming in a painless existence,
Everyday is grand, every event here is magical,
Life lifts in blissful ecstasy, serenading the colossal majesty of the cosmos.
Every since I arrived here I have had no time to think on my earlier existence,
But now I am slowly drifting in that direction:
I see a lot of affectation and wishful thinking by people on earth,
Lot of foolish customs and rituals, foolish hopes.
Good people struggle for existence while bad people have it made so easy,
Relationships are often sweet lies, selfishness often holds the sway,
Love is often a wrong word used by people when they should have been saying my- interest,
Modern lifestyles have reduced life to mere self-interest and physical enjoyment.
I do not recall the scooter-truck accident,
That shattered my life beyond any repair,
I have stitched a timeline out of others’ recalls,
A futile effort to give semblance of order in my tragedy.
When life’s center-of-gravity shatters any efforts to fix it is a waste,
One must accept one’s defeat and live for small kicks,
Have you seen flowers blossoming after a storm blows them off,
To accept life without a personal reward is the greatest sacrifice one can make.
For forty-seven years I labored to exist,
Without a job, wife, or children,
There was no ambition for which I would have willingly bled,
There was no dream for which I would have broken my right arm.
I was on a road without a destination,
Travelling without a purpose or reward,
Life was a garment stitched in days,
Weeks rolled into months; months melted in years.
My relatives treated me with tenderness, love, and friendship,
They would never ask me if I was bored, lonely, or depressed,
Their pleasant inquiries were keenly edited,
To make a false impression that I was having a great life.
I had nowhere to go but forward,
Past was my death-knell, future did not exist,
Present was my life,
I was a prisoner within its walls.
While parents were alive there was someone to ask me,
Whether I had eaten anything, whether I was tired,
There was someone to give a loving look,
A warm voice saying goodbye or welcome.
With their exit I lost the greatest human touch in my life,
After that my life was a long stretch of vast loneliness,
But I did not fold or bend,
Kept my life on the fast-track.
I went to several libraries every day to catch up the news,
Eat at Mac three times,
Retired home by 9, slept by 11,
Looking to another day.
Many years passed thus,
And started showing a mark,
I began losing interest in the libraries,
I thought I must work.
I sent several hundred applications but none was acknowledged,
I started becoming depressed,
What to do, where to go,
End seemed to raise its head.
As my curtain started to draw down
I reflected on my life,
How I spent forty-seven years in
Silent struggle, unshed tears, permanently jailed in loneliness.
People pitied my existence
But never speaking a word about it to me,
I pulled my own iron curtain,
Never telling them my true feelings.
At times I wondered why I was being punished so severely,
As I had committed no sin in my life,
But then the thought came that it may have been from the past life,
I was sentenced to life imprisonment without a judge or jury.
Coming here I feel I could not have done better on earth,
All I had was a strong will to live,
I did not believe in chest-thumping,
Life has only one purpose: stand up and walk ahead.
The big drama about human life is that people believe
There is a moral code attached to it,
It is a dream flying by the wind of chance,
It is thrilling as long as it is in the air.
I did my prison-time on earth as best I could,
I shed as few tears as I could,
I complained about my pain as little as I could,
Do not make me a hero, I was only doing my duty.
Suffern, New York, September 11, 2019
Her word was soft, Her footsteps were softer, Yet her presence was louder than others. Today we grieve the friend we lost, The light that was shut off, The voice that is heard no more. We find you … Continue reading
Dear KOA Biradari, In 1977 I attended, what is considered now the first meeting of an organization that later was called Kashmir Overseas Association, at Surinder and Mohini Nath’s residence in Washington D.C. There were about eight people in attendance. … Continue reading
I have not read a more thorough description of the 1947 Qabali Raid than what Shanti Swarup Ambardar has given in his book, Day of Destiny, A Memoir, published in 2014. He was in Srinagar at that time and closely … Continue reading
Life Comes with No meaning at its Birth It is correct that human life does not come with a meaning at its birth, but it is endowed with a strong biological force to live right from that point on till … Continue reading
A human being is born mostly as a physical system, which later on evolves into a physical and mental system. Together two of them propel human life, under the guidance of the latter. The need for happiness only arises when … Continue reading
One thing we sure know is that human life as it comes from nature is not exactly the same for everyone. Though there are commonalities, but each life falls into a few personality types. But that is given. Beyond that … Continue reading