When Sheen is asked to make a documentary on Mother’s Day, she was loaded with stories of Rani Laxmibai (queen of Jhansi) – Kota Rani (last sanatani ruler of Kashmir) – Queen Yashomati (first woman to be crowned as an empress in recorded history as per Neelmat Puran) and many others. Finally she decides to go with Queen Didda, an iron lady who not only brought the golden days of Kashmir but also defended her from attacks of Mohd Ghaznavi which is mentioned not only in Kalhan`s Rajtarangini but also in Baharistan – i – Shahi an Persian history book of Kashmir.
Just to get some piece of advice & details about the same, she went to her mother looking for some inspiration and asks her for some ideas as her mother, who is herself a writer. Instead of detailing Sheen about the great queens chronicles her mother decided to share one story with her, of which, in a way, she was a witness to, herself. She narrated her story of a mother who endured all the pain and suffering just to make sure her child survives. She shared with her daughter a story of courage and valour of a sanatani mother and the reason why mothers are divine and are worthy of all the respect and love they receive from their children.
The story is about a young woman Voma and her newly born girl child Zooni.
Zooni was just a few months old when their village in North Kashmir was attacked by Afridi and Pashtun tribes. To escape the horrendous brutality of the attackers, villagers had to leave everything behind and flee for the South. Unfortunately, during this sudden exodus, Voma’s husband and father-in-law were not in the village as they had gone to the city on some errand. Voma was left with a six months old child and a resolve that she alone had to save both of them/.
In that atmosphere of panic and fear, she picked herself up and quickly tied as much food as she could in a cloth for her child, and joined the village caravan that was heading to Srinagar. There was no time to wait for her husband’s and father-in-law’s return, she could only pray and hope to be joined by them later.
On their way, they came across another village near Baramulla (originally called Varahmul, based on Vishnu Puran). The village sarpanch had kept a huge reception for his daughter’s wedding. Voma told the sarpanch that death is in search for batta (another name for Kashmiri pandits) and scolded him for keeping a feast at such time instead of saving his and his family’s life and that of other villagers. Hastily everyone from that village as well joined in the caravan leaving behind everything to be scavenged by the tribal attackers who were in their pursuit.
The tribal had somehow got the information about the Hindu villagers making their way to the safe south. They took the shortcut through hills to hunt down the villagers. While villagers’ convoy was moving slowly on bullock-carts, the tribal had horses and didn’t have children and women to worry about. In no time, they had found the caravan and managed to attack and loot the villagers when they had halted for the night somewhere near Varahmul.
Villagers’ worst fears had materialized in front of their eyes. It was a gruesome night drowned in blood and cries of innocents. Men were beheaded. Gold they had brought with them was looted. Children were chopped like chickens in a slaughterhouse. Women were raped and their breasts cut off by the inhumane vicious attackers.
Clutching her child in her arms, Voma ran blindly to escape the terrible fate. She kept running with all her might…not seeing anything, not hearing anything… just focussed on taking faster and longer steps away from the Kabali tribal attackers. Which direction, towards what place… she didn’t know. She just ran. She just wanted to put as much distance as possible between her child and those monstrous attackers. She kept running some 10 miles barefoot and somehow managed to escape.
Only when she was sure she and her child were safe, could she hear the cries of her baby and she stopped under a bridge of a seasonal river. She fed the child and tried to put her to sleep. She was tired and under obvious trauma, and as her child slept, she too took some rest.
She woke up to the sounds of jeeps and trucks running. Now in the daytime, she realized she wasn’t much far from Srinagar, and the sounds of jeeps and trucks were that of the Indian army which had come to their rescue. The military was putting up camps everywhere for helping the locals. In one such camp, Voma took Zooni and handed over themselves to the caring hands of the doctors and other medical staff.
After a few weeks, Voma was reunited with her husband who had first gone to the village with her father-in-law searching for her and Zooni and then came to Srinagar to look for them in the army camp where he finally found them. The ordeal that he and his father had encountered is a story for another day.
As her mother finished recounting the story, Sheen asked her what had happened to Voma and Zooni later and where were they now. She told, “Voma with her husband & their daughter rebuilt their life in their village. After few years they had another baby girl and it’s that baby girl who is telling you this story. Zooni is your massiji & Voma is nobody else but your beloved Nani Ma and this is the story of the strongest woman I have ever met”.
(Thanks to the China and later Pakistan for wars of 1963 – 65 -71 family of Voma and many other similar sanatanis had to face a lot of hardships that can`t be compiled in one article. This article is dedicated to all Vomas of Kashmir and other parts of BharatVarsha, who didn`t leave their dharm. Kashmiri Sanatani are fighting the survival battle for last 800 years and have an unique identity and presence on national and international level even though were of a miniscule population in Kashmir. Stories like this of Voma ji should inspire all the generations coming up next.)