I’ll share with a story, because I think the best is to let people know that how I came across this. Any idea, what is this? This is the Kashmiri refugee camp. I was working there, and my wife is also here, and we used to, both, go to the camps to work with the trauma of the people and there were a number of camps. We had distributed our work. We used to go to the camp, discuss the symptoms people felt. Most of them could not sleep. Most of them had nightmares, most of them had many symptoms. We used to discuss this, help them with exercises, talks, to heal and then come back.
One day while coming out, there was this man, an old Kashmiri, a gentle man wearing a Phiran. He looked very elegant. He came to us and said, “Why do you come here?” So, I said I come here because I want to work with the trauma of the Kashmiri people. He smiled, looked at me and said, “Do you understand our trauma?” I said, now, where is this conversation going. I don’t want it to go in the way he’s taking it. So, I said, “Look, we are trying to understand.” He says, “What is the response of the people to your workshops?” I said, “It is not very good. It’s modest. People come. They sit, they listen, and they go away.” Then he again repeated his question, “Do you understand our trauma?” I said, “Well, I’m trying, but if you can suggest something I can do.”
He pointed his finger at the camp, we were at a slight elevation, and said, “do you know what this camp is called?” I said, “Muthi Camp”. He says, “No. Do you know what do we call it?” I said, “What?” He said, “We call it Aurangzeb’s Dream.” So, I was taken aback. I said, “Aurangzeb’s Dream!” He says, “Yes, we call it Aurangzeb’s dream, and do you understand why?” I said, “No”. He said, “Then go and search. When you understand why we call it, then probably you will get a better response from people.”
Now, to a Western trained mind like me, it was quite frankly insult. Okay, here is this person telling me that. Anyway, I went back. I started studying about Aurangzeb; I had vaguely known him as someone who was anti-Hindu, who was fanatic, this and that, nothing more than that. But I was curious to find out that why a school teacher came up to me pointing at the camp of Kashmiri Pandits and said this is called Aurangzeb’s dream. I studied about Aurangzeb. I discovered that in almost three hundred years ago, somebody had told Aurangzeb that if you can convert the Kashmiri Pandits to Islam, the whole of India will convert. So, if you can convert Kashmir to Islam the whole of India will follow through. So, hearing that he had asked his governor that convert all these people and don’t care about the methods.
And then, those people, they went along with Pundit Kripa Ram, who was a prominent Kashmiri leader, to the ninth guru- Guru Teg Bahadur- and asked him for support saying that “he’s trying to destroy us. Can you help us?”. So, Guru Teg Bahadur decided to sacrifice himself. He went to Aurangzeb. There was a dialogue between both of them. He refused to convert despite being threatened and Aurangzeb said, ultimately, “Kill him and his people”… and he could not convert him. So, he got saved, the Hinduism, as we understand as a religion. Many people say that they got saved because of that.
I was very touched when I read this. When I went back again into the camp, the group was sitting there, and I told them that I have studied about Aurangzeb. I understand what he did and suddenly I noticed a change in the group. This, I could see that they had become alive. They felt that we were connecting with each other. He says, “Now, you are understanding us”. They said in Kashmiri and a whole lot of disclosure followed. People started talking about themselves like never before. Some of the women came forward and said that ‘we were sexually assaulted’, which you could never talk about.
Things changed. It taught me a very important lesson that I had been in my life saying trauma as a group of psychological symptoms, but now, I began to understand trauma as also having a historical component, a historical nature. And since then, whenever I have worked all across the world, I have found that trauma has to be understood in its historical context.
Many years back I was taking an interview. It was a Sikh family and I had to take a case history. I asked the elderly man who was there, “I have to take your family history”. I have to take the family history. He looked at me and said, “What do you want to write? Just write, we are a partition family”. So, I said, “But I still want to write that what happened.” He says, “No, we are a partition family”. So, for him, the entire concept was that it’s a partition family. We carried trauma within ourselves and we carry it as a historical route.