A Pandit Woman's Death Bridges A Divide
22 December 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: It was a unique Chahrum-a practice observed on the fourth day after the death of any Muslim in the Valley-at Rainawari here today. The deceased, in this case, was a Hindu. Local Muslims observed the ritual for Kashmiri Pandit Sarla Ambardar, a member of the last Pandit family in the locality. Muslims served traditional noon chai (salt tea) and Kashmiri bread to fellow Muslims and Pandits who turned up. 'We don't observe the fourth day but our Muslim neighbours requested us to observe Chahrum,' said Sarla's son Sunny Ambardar, a student. 'We agreed, moved by their concern for us.' Sarla was a class-IV employee of Vishwa Bharti College and died on December 18, leaving behind two daughters and two sons. 'We didn't want Sarla's children to feel there is no one to console them and share their grief,' said Mohammad Sultan, member of a local Mohalla Committee, which made arrangements for the Chahrum. 'Sarla was like our sister. Hundreds of Muslims had turned up when she was cremated,' he said. Principal of Vishwa Bharati College Shamim Ahmed said, 'Despite living in penury for 16 years, Sarla made sure her children got education, and in the years of turmoil, she stayed back,' said Ahmed. Sarla's daughter Meenakshi, who has done a computer course and is unemployed, said, 'My mother was great... She gave us decent education. Our father died in 1988. Every Muslim of the locality cried on my mother's death,' she said. Muslim girls of the neighbourhood felt the loss. Rukhsana of Rajbagh and Nasreen of Pulwama had been staying at Meenakshi's house since the tragedy struck. 'I have been here so that my friends do not feel alone at the time of grief,' said Ruksana while consoling Meenakshi. Sarla's relatives from Jammu were all praise for the locals. 'I requested Sarla's son to bring her body for last rites to Jammu but they refused. Seeing the care being given by the Muslims, I feel I was wrong,' said Sarla's brother Satish Kumar.