Since then we moved down to the plains, forgot the language and grew into city people. And me, in Bangalore. Very far and disconnected from where i originally belonged. Now i don't mean to sound all angsty and lost. Truth is i've always been most content with a Banglorean identity.
But on a visit to Pahalgam last year i discovered this ramshackled property that belonged to my great grandfather. It was the last piece of property in Kashmir that my family owned. It was gifted to our family Guru by my great grandfather because no body lived there.
It consists of two buildings. The first, Lal Kothi (Red House) is the main structure, part of which was once swept away in a flood and then rebuilt. Some years later the top floor was burnt in a fire. And for the past four decades the house has been taken over by squatters.
The other building was originally the outhouse, which has now been converted into a funny little hotel called Krishna Cottage, by it's current owners.
This year i went back to Pahalgam and spent some time at Lal Kothi and Krishna Cottage. Apart from being my last claim to Kashmiri citizenship, this place had so many stories to tell.
I met the ancient care-taker at Krishna cottage who said he remembered meeting my great grandfather as a child. Uncovered some of the history of Lal Kothi from Salim, a young dhobi who grew up in the house after it was abandoned by my family. And got to know these people who treated me like their home was also my home, literally.