For a young bride, and first time visitor in Kashmir, the Valley opened up such a treasure of beauty that I was completely smitten. Visually, nothing surpassed the untouched and untamed beauty and every season unfolded its own beautiful panorama. The people were warm, generous and quite contented. 

Though my family lived in Srinagar, I spent several years looking after our home in Gulmarg…..a large wooden structure, that swayed, but stayed, whenever there was an earthquake. Gulmarg was so quiet often, that you could hear the sheep graze as they walked past. And in this Quiet, Time often stood still…

Two Kashmiri chowkidars took care of the property, as had their fathers before them. They were more than just “chowkidars” since they oversaw everything…. good, honest, sincere and trustworthy. Both of them never failed of offer “Namaz” five times a day. Both of them, in their simplicity, taught me a few lessons of life that I recall today. 

Mohammad Bhat, fondly called Mohmdoo, was the older of the two. He was like a mother figure and sometimes agreed to answer my many questions. (Everything was so new to me). Discussing life and death, he admitted that he was afraid to Die. I asked him why should he feel so, since he was a good man, who always said his prayers, never lied, etc. Why, of all people, was he afraid? He replied, “Bibiji, I have not asked enough for forgiveness.” 

I couldn’t understand him then, and now, after all these years (we left Kashmir in 1990, and Mohmdoo passed since), I do now understand what he meant. It is so important to free oneself of all the guilt that we tend to accumulate over many births, I think. Even over one birth, there is enough guilt. 

So, on a daily basis, in my prayers I ask forgiveness for all the pain that I have caused to so many, knowing or unknowingly. And I pray that they may forgive me too. And may I be mindful so as to not feel guilty for my Thought, Word or Deed. 

So this was Mohmdoo’s lesson to me. I will save another lesson for another day, God willing.

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Anila Bal

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