On the day when Kashmiri Pandits are celebrating Herath, Mountain Ink presents the living legend of Mohini Raina — the beloved nurse who sought salvation in her sisterhood and spiritual roots to overcome an overwhelming situation in her homeland when her tribe members migrated from the valley.
When Indian Home Minister Mufti Sayeed played his “trump card” in the rebellious region soon after the hostage-swapping spectacle in Kashmir, it left only two choices for a widow: Either follow her tribe’s footsteps, or to stay back for the sake of her sisterhood.
In that historic hour which would haunt the valley for years to come, Mohini Raina chose her ‘soul-sisters’—Jawaira and Misra—who had been her shade and shadow through her thick and thin.
“I couldn’t follow the popular path for the sake of my sisters,” says Mohini, a nurse whose colleagues at her workplace, LD Hospital, equally ‘assured’ her safety. “My departure during those dreadful times would’ve been a selfish act and a blot on our sisterhood.”
However, the decision amid the deafening din of discord didn’t prove easy either.
The neighbourhood which would once bustle with her tribe members had suddenly overtaken by a graveyard silence. Many decorated Pandit abodes became ghost houses overnight.
But before the landscape transformation amid heightened military dominance could even dishearten her, the nurse found support in the form of her Abaji.
It was late Ghulam Ahmad Dar, aka ‘Abaji’, who made sure that Mohini doesn’t stay alone amid crisis and chaos. Living with the Dar family of Srinagar’s Badshahnagar since then, Mohini has now become Teathie—the beloved elder—for the entire neighbourhood.
As much as the whole locality respects her, she has been equally taking care of them. It’s because of her compassionate cult that no occasion is complete without her prayers and blessings.
Walking small steps and with an unusual limp, Teathie lately showed up in her next-door neighbour’s house, whose son recently got engaged.
After settling down and taking a deep breath, she conveyed her wishes, “Mubarak hez chu, Khudah kernyakh aabaad” (Congratulations, may almighty bless them!)
She couldn’t earlier visit the family because of her toe fracture.
Teathie’s visits often take her neighbours nine years back when she was diagnosed with cancer. While the disease disclosure shocked the neighbourhood, she stood tall and firm.
“Sharing a spiritual space with your creator come at a cost and sacrifice,” she says while being grateful for the cure and recovery she has made over the years.
For the next three years after the critical disease was diagnosed, she was treated in America — where her only son is settled with his family.
“Before I left for my treatment, I visited shrines and temples to quench my spiritual thirst one last time,” she says revealing an aspect of her lifelong devotion.
After she returned hale and hearty, she only developed more depth within her spiritual space.
Born at Baramulla in 1950, Mohini grew up in a very mystic environment within her family. Her late father Damodhar Sharma was a popular Pandit peer in his village.
“He was a ‘Sufi-dervish’ whose selfless public service and kindness was beyond creed, caste, colour and religion,” says Mohini.
Growing up, she heard elders narrating some fascinating ‘rebirth’ anecdotes, adding to her platonic belief. “I was told that as a child I was sick and lifeless to an extent that my last rites were about to begin before I was seen breathing again,” she recalls.
Grooming in this mystic atmosphere, she burnt the midnight oil for seeking spiritual solace.
When the same mystic married in 1974, soon after completing her graduation in Humanities, she became Mohini Raina from Mohini Sharma.
“That was the beginning of so many changes to come my way,” she continues.
Later, as a mother of a small kid, she completed her four-year nursing training, before her husband died due to an electric shock, soon after being transferred to Ladakh in 1982.
“Bakhtuk baar ousum, heakun pyom (I had to endure and lift the weight of my destiny),” she utters in a low tone.
Then as a working lady in Srinagar, she found refuge to her inner void in the shrines of Srinagar.
“Visiting the religious place throughout the city brought calm to my chaos and settled my restlessness to find the spiritual solace that I had always aspired for while growing up,” she says. Those soul-seeking visits specifically made her a devoted visitor to the shrine of Makhdoom Sahib.
Apart from the regular ‘pooja-paarth’, Mohini started reading the holy Quran and observing fasts in Ramzan as well.
In between she was to pass through the testing times of nineties when most of her relatives migrated from the valley.
“I was asked to join them but my sisters and spiritual voice assured me my safety in the paradigm I was living in,” she says.
Three decades later, the beloved nurse is quite content with her decision. She’s grateful to have explored and embraced all the blessings that have come her way. Patience and resilience, she says, are the tools that helped her to overcome odds and pass tests.
“Today, when I visit my relatives in Jammu and Delhi, and my son in America, I see a clear difference,” Teathie says. “Unlike many of them, I’ve my loving home intact in the valley.”
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