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Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims connect 27 years after exile

‘Gadd Bateh’ is a satirical play depicting the pangs of migration of Kashmiri Pandits and their urge to continue their age-old traditions in different settings

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Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims connect 27 years after exile
Kashmiri Pandit theatre troupe perform on stage in Tagore hall in Srinagar
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When an exiled Kashmiri Pandit theatre troupe performed on stage for the first time in their place of birth, little did they realise it would turn out to be an epic of sorts and a melange of emotions.

There were tears, camaraderie replaced bitterness, and hugs overtook the grievances when Kashmiri play "Gadd Bateh" (Fish Rice) — depicting the unique traditions of Kashmiri Pandits — was staged by Vomedh Rangmanch in the National Theatre Festival 'Paather' organised by Kashmir Performers Collective at Tagore Hall in Srinagar on Monday.

It was, perhaps, the first time an exclusively migrant Kashmiri Pandit troupe performed in Kashmir after the painful migration of 1990. "I was in nursery when my family migrated from Kashmir. A sea of emotions overwhelmed me when I saw the audiences' response in a jam-packed hall. I could not hold back my tears when I met the people. They, too, cried along with us," said Rohit Bhat, director of the play.

A satirical play depicting the pangs of migration of Kashmiri Pandits and their urge to continue their age-old traditions in different settings, Gadd Bateh brought back memories of the pre-1990 era when Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims shared happiness, joy and sorrow, together in the valley.

The play revolves around a Kashmiri Pandit in exile, who celebrates all Pandit festivals in order to keep the culture alive. However, he has not been able to celebrate "Gadd Bateh" as he has not owned a home for 26 years in Jammu.

"Such was the rise of emotion, that I asked my organiser to look for a house in Srinagar so that I could settle down here. I can't express my feelings in words. I was unable to sleep for the last 15 days, thinking about what the response based on the news we were hearing. We cannot forget the love showered on us, particularly on Monday when we performed on stage," said Bhat.

For senior artist Bharti Koul, performing among the people of Kashmir was an experience, given the love and respect she received. "For the first time in 27 years, I performed in my own land and among my own people. We have received so much of love that we don't want to go back. After the play, people came backstage to compliment us and express their love," said Koul.

Organiser of National Theatre Festival Manzoor Ahmad Mir was overwhelmed by the people's response. "The response was such that it seemed Kashmir of pre-1990 had returned. I have so far conducted five plays in this festival, but yesterday's stood out," said Mir.

FISH RICE

  • ‘Gadd Bateh’ is a satirical play depicting the pangs of migration of Kashmiri Pandits and their urge to continue their age-old traditions in different settings
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