Monday, August 18, 2014

'Thass Mansion': A House at Sathu Barbarshah

Guest post by Sakshi Kaul Dhar about visiting her ancestral home and pieces she retrieved.






The house was constructed by my Great Grandfather Tara Chand Thass and was completed in June of year 1924. We called it "Thass Mansion".

Tara Chand Dhar was married to Posh Kuj who belonged to Kathlishwar  area of Srinagar . Together they had nine children - six sons and three daughters - among them my grandfather, Kashi Nath Thass was the eldest.


Tara Chand Thass 'Dhar' and Posh Kuj


I am Kashmiri, born and brought up in Delhi, but even then haven't been able to cut my umbilical cord with a place my father and grandfather were born.


I visited this house for the first time in 2012. Locating a house without a House Number can be hell of a difficult task in Srinagar now. And whose house should you say when they ask you the name of the owner of the House. A proud and naive me, in my insanity and emotional state/euphoria declared, ' It's my House .... I am the Makan Malik.' 

Nearly all families had moved out of the house before the breakout of militancy as the house was proving to be small for expanding families of six sons.



One of my Uncle's still lives in some of the rooms in the house. A couple of rooms are rented.



The furniture and the other fixtures were taken out during the period when no one was in the house at the peak of militancy. There is nothing much left in the house except for papers, photographs, old letters etc which were of no economic value for any one who ransacked the place.





It's nearly a three floor house. After first floor, all you find is papers lying everywhere and of course bats and the smell of dead rats. It took me almost three hours to sift through the dust and newspapers looking for things that meant something.


There were note books of my cousins, engineering project reports of my cousin who was in REC, Srinagar in the late eighties. Letters of my uncles and aunts filled with love, complaints, their joys and sorrows. Bills. The report cards of my cousin, which he surely did not want me to bring back.

Things I found scattered around and brought back:

Letters from year 1929 about my Grandfather Pt. Kashi Nath's training at Government School of Engineering, Rasul, Panjab [now in Pakistan] as an Overseer [Avarseer, as we say in Kashmir].






Pt. Kashi Nath Dhar Thass [seated first from right] as part of Football team.
Government School of Engineering, Rasul. 1930
The English Guy in the middle is C.E. Blaker, Principal of the School

My Grandfather Kashi Nath Thass was married to Kamlawati Kaul, daughter of Master Shanker Pandit, the famous Head Master of Biscoe School.

C. E Tyndale Biscoe wrote about Shaker Pandit, “I must express my thanks to my Headmaster Shanker Pandit BA who has allowed me to draw upon his knowledge of ancient history , and of various rites and ceremonies , both of Hindus and Muslims , with respect to birth, death, marriage etc. What my friend Shanker does not know concerning his country is not worth knowing. He remained Head master for 40 years in the school. A very successful teacher in the classroom, but as a leader in all social services for the welfare of his country , he was superb. ”

I found this picture of Shanker Pandit lying on the floor as if it was waiting for me to pick it up.

Picture was taken on November 14, 1946. Biscoe School, Srinagar.
Found on 17th October, 2012

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My father was born in "Thass Mansion". I lost him very early in my life. This House represent's his birth to me. Hence the house seems to me like a harbinger of my birth, which was to follow. This house or rather home just reminds me that although he may not be here with me , the home where he was born (even though is miles away from Delhi) is overlooking me .

I may not be able to frequently walk on the roads that they walked or see the places they saw, but I know some where there exists a place…my father's birth place: Sathoo, Barbarshah, Srinagar , KMR.

Although the house is now old and crumbling , we still have not sold it. Like all Kashmiris, may be some where we still hope and nurture the dream of returning back to the valley some day. We have lost many near and dear ones in the family. We all are now scattered all over the Globe. Unfortunately, we could not hold on to lives but the home is what we have physically held on . 

Sometimes Kashmir seems as though slipping from my hands... The fear that I may not be able to go back again....The fear that I may not be able to see it again. Sometimes I think may be ours is the last generation that holds on to Kashmir in our heads as Home.... The place we belong to.


I don't know what will happen of Kashmir (The Physical Land) amidst political uncertainty and religious fanaticism…but I don't want to lose the stories and emotions of my people - The Kashmiri Pandits. I don't want their lives and stories to be buried under the debris like their homes are.

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8 comments:

  1. My grandfather (Prithvi Nath Dhar) co-owned the house and his father owned the land where the house was built. My mother was also born in that house (the upper room where there are 2 wooden blanks on the photograph). My mother lived in that house until she was 16 when the rest of the family had to move out with her parents. I visited the house with my mother, wife and uncle in the spring of 2012. The condition was exactly the same with papers all over the floor and the rooms inside very dusty. My brother was born next door to the building yards away from the house, but that building was knocked down and doesn't exist anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. So, how are you be related to Sakshi? Were you traveling together?

      Delete
  2. Dee Raz is my cousin . Interestingly we have never met . Ours is a large family connected thru Internet these days. He visited a couple of days before I visited in October 2012.

    Sakshi Kaul Dhar

    ReplyDelete
  3. I actually visited "Thass Mansion" in spring 2012, but yes Sakshi Kaul Dhar is my relative from my mum's side, because I asked my mum whether she knew her. I've never met Sakshi, because I'm born and brought up in the UK and the last time I went to India was in January 2013 for my sister-in-law's wedding in Delhi.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This article means a lot. This is our story. The story of the 'extirpated' Pandits.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can't imagine how you would have felt on going back to your house. Its very good to know that you haven't sold this house. Generally the old Pandit houses that existed in the old city of Srinagar are now either dilapidated or encroached upon by people living around them. Please do not let the same happen to this. These beautiful structures form an indispensable part of our history.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jalal Ud Din Shah [via FB]: This house belonged to one of my most loved principles JN Dhar also called Jagu Thuss,,, Do you know that they had a WOODDEN door outside courtyard which was called Thussu Baur,,,would make sound like Thuss, thus the nickname and nicknames here in kashmir replace ORIGINAL castes, this house is exactly near Barbar shah bridge in a lane slightly inside the road,, I have visited here so many times,,,another brother of Jagu Thous had a sports goods shop at Lal Chowk called Kashmir Syndicate

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sakshi ji, my matamal was in ur neighbourhood. Pt ram chand koul was my nanaji 's name. I have got matching feelings with u for our motherland kashmir and miss her a lot. U have given a wonderful heart touching account of ur home in kashmir.

    ReplyDelete

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