For the Hindus, better known as Kashmiri Pandits, Shivratri is the biggest festival on the calendar. And a scene that played out repeatedly this year in areas dominated by them was Muslims embracing and wishing their Hindu friends a happy holiday. For Kashmiri Hindus, nightlong prayers at home are followed by a visit to the temple on Shivratri. They also host a feast for friends the next day, known as Salam. Until militancy broke out in 1989, it was common for Kashmiri Pandits to host lunches for their Muslim friends and neighbors.
Mushtaq Ahmad waited for a Kashmiri Pandit family outside Ranishewar temple, housing an icon of Lord Shiva, in the rain, just to hug his friends and congratulate them. Mushtaq, who is a government employee, went to the home of his friend Sushil Kaul in Janipur, but was told by neighbors that the family had gone to the temple. He headed straight for the shrine. When Sushil and Mushtaq sighted each other, they couldn’t stop embracing. Tears rolled down their cheeks, retelling the story of two friends being back together.