Title: 22 YEARS
AUTHOR: Bill K Koul
Bill K Koul has written an honest and very personal account in his memoir, 22 YEARS. As he says in the sub-title to his book, ‘one lakh Pandit families may have one lakh stories’ Koul recounts the fear and anguish he went through before fleeing Kashmir in the anti-Pandit pogrom in 1989. He writes candidly of the mistaken belief of the community elders that the initial episodes of hostility and violence against the Pandits would pass and had to be ignored. In pointing out this, he points to a historical characteristic of the peaceloving Pandits who have suffered victimisation through the centuries.
He himself seemed to see the impending danger of life in a highly polarised conflict zone and left his beloved Valley a year before the great Exodus of Pandits in 1990.
He tells his story without frills or pontifications. There is nostalgia for the Kashmir of gardens and rivers and festivals and close-knit families, but there is also a recounting of fear and anguish at the breaking up of lives, the helplessness of the hunted and the fight to begin life all over again.
I was told once by a young Kashmiri Pandit who had come away from the travails of his homeland and worked in Delhi: ‘It was tragic to leave our roots in Kashmir. But I see it another way; There we were small fish in a small pool. Now we are out in the Ocean to make our mark.’
The author, Bill Koul, may well be an example of the truth of that. Forhe crossed the ocean and made a new life for himself. He now lives in Perth and tries to visit Kashmir when he can. His book, an easy read that engrosses the reader in a personal story, is a beacon of hope.
By: Vijay N Shankar
Author, poet and a lifetime journalist and editor