October 8, 2008 12:10:35 am
The 35-year-old Indian who has been tasked with bailing out the US economy from the credit crunch has his roots in Srinagar’s Safriyar locality. But nobody in this rundown neighbourhood knows Neel Kashkari. His identity here is through his grandfather Sudarshan Kashkari, a former head clerk in the Electric Department, the well known Kashkari clan, a brick house on the banks of the Jhelum and a Kashkari neighbourhood which no longer exists.
Neel Kashkari’s family once lived in this Kashmiri Pandit locality around the Somyar temple. “We remember Sudarshan Kashkari and his three sons,” says Bashir Ahmad Wani who has been running a shop in the area for over 50 years. “We were neighbours.”
Their house and the rest of the Kashkari neighbourhood were dismantled in 2000 to make way for a new bridge. “The temple is still there,” says Wani, pointing towards two brick houses. “These are the houses of the Sadhu family, the only remnants of the time other than the memories.”
The only Kashmiri Pandit shopkeeper in the neighbourhood, 65-year-old Manohar Nath Chrungo, now has just a few bales on the wooden shelves. A neighbouring shopkeeper, 75-year-old Noor-ul-Hassan, sits next to him. “Are you planning to buy any property,” Chrungo asks when The Indian Express inquires about Kashkari family. “There is nothing left. The entire Safriyar locality came under the bridge project.”
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But Chrungu, Hassan and Wani are surprised to hear that we were searching for the roots of a young man who has become news worldwide. “For years, only people interested in buying the property would come. But we are happy to know one of our sons will bring fame to this neglected neighbourhood,” says Wani, before joining the other two to figure out how much $700 billion would be in rupees.
Neel Kashkari’s father Chaman Nath Kashkari left for the US soon after completing his engineering in 1950. “It was a big family with a house right on the banks of the Jhelum,” says cousin Sham Lal Kashkari, who now lives in Jammu. “Both his brothers are dead. We have met Neel’s father a few times. He used to attend marriages in the family. We haven’t seen his children.” In fact, Neel Kashkari’s uncle Som Nath Kashkari was a known city doctor.
Chrungu and Wani, meanwhile, walk towards the bridge. “This is where the house stood,” says Chrungo, pointing at an iron electric pole at the river bank. A few feet away, the Somyar mandir, one of Srinagar’s ancient temples, stands in all its grandeur. It is surrounded by bunkers and spools of barbed wire. “There’s no Kashmiri Pandit here. It is just us,” shouts a CRPF jawan from behind the sandbags.
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