Mourning

The air was mourning their loss. A scream. And the scream gradually turned into sobbing. Heartbreak!

Their day started with buzzing of alarm clocks. Most annoying thing in mornings. And a second later mom would find her way in their rooms. “You are not up yet? You are going to be late. Hasten.” And there the struggles start. “Mom, I am not taking all this stuff with me. I can’t eat all this.” “Mom, let me sleep na, please!” All answers in negative. Nothing was entertained. They had to get up, get dressed and leave. Story of every student. This was a routine and they knew it won’t be altered. Nevertheless, they pleaded as undeterred. Has there ever been a child who wanted to go to school! Who did not need persuasion? Who liked it far from mom? Probably none!

In school it was a usual day. Made to study when they wanted to play. They did not want to but had to. No choices. After all this is what schools are meant for. And then recess. Freedom. Relief. Not long term but yeah, still a rescue. Their chatter filled the air. Gaiety. It is wonderful how a kid’s presence can change the environment. How a calm, quite place can be transformed into festivity.

Back home, their moms were busy cooking their kid’s favourites. Persuasion. Can a mom let her child be displeased with her? Never. She would pamper them as soon as they arrive back from school. Schools tire after all! Many a times they had no energy even to walk. Enter home and fall asleep. It was not pleasant for their mom’s either but it was for their future. How would they learn and prosper without attending school? They still did not. Life had other plans! Different from them and their parents.

During recess that day some strangers entered their school. Nobody noticed. None until they took out their weapons and opened fire. Bullets! Randomly, in all directions. Targeting anyone and everyone. But it was a school, wasn’t it? Occupied by children. Children! They were being gunned down. Killed!

As there were cries for help, security personals came into sight. Gunned down the intruders. But by then the damage had been done. So many mothers had lost their one dear child!

The scene was dismal. All one could see was blood. Lying around were corpses of festive children. Those who changed a place’s environment. Those who cheered everyone up. Whose presence only led to festivity. No more laughter filled air. Agony of life! Even the skies seemed to mourn. Everything and everyone fell silent in that moment.

On her arrival, all she could see was red! A scream escaped her lips. Everything seemed to have stopped in that moment. Nothing moved. Lifeless. She could not identify he child. Had he survived? Was he killed too? Where was he? No one knew. Unanswered!

She heard his voice, “Mom, I don’t wanna go to school today. Please don’t force me to. I just wanna stay with you.” Why did she not listen to him? Why did she force him to school? How would have one day’s absence mattered? She cursed herself. Why did she need to be so hard on him? Why did she not yield? This caused a stream of tears flow down her face. Remorse.

“Smallest coffins are the heaviest.”

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Painted in Red

They all sat together in a single room. Pin drop silence. All that could be heard was the sound of T.V. A news reporter was reading out the latest developments in the area. Developments not in the form of infrastructure or education but of situation. Of a situation that had led them to be locked up in their homes. Curfew. It had been a week that they had been locked up in their homes. First internet services were snapped and gradually all kinds of connectivity. One could not even know how a person was. No news source other than the national television. Indian television.

The issue with being dependent on Indian media was their non-reliability. They would never showcase the truth. They did cover the militant army encounters. They rejoiced on militant deaths. They showed their disapproval of people joining funeral of militants. But they never digged down to understand why an 18 year old would shun his studies and take up arms. They showed the angry mobs protesting on streets but could never gather the courage to bring forth the reason for their anger and anguish.

But right now they did not really have an option. They had no other source. The unrest was triggered by an encounter. And people had poured in thousands on streets for his funeral. Along with the prayers there was one thing that reverberated in the air that day. “Hum kya chahte? Azaadi!” This word, “Azaadi”, had compelled the forces to disperse the procession. Means used? Tear gas shells, pellets, rubber and even live bullets. That day a dozen more boys were killed. And hundreds others injured.

Tear gas shells are frequently used for mob dispersal. The proper usage? To be shot at an upward or downward angle of 45 degrees. But in this part of the world, tear gas shells were shot at 90 degrees. Right above the waist.  As if they were aiming it at people so as to cause injury and panic. More than tears by a gas, a mob can be dispersed by the realisation that a participant is hit by a canister and needs medical attention. From protests their attention gets diverted to calling an ambulance or arranging a vehicle and driving the person to care and safety. Similarly pellet guns are classified as non-lethal. On being shot they shoot out small balls ranging from 300-30. In most parts of the world they merely shoot 30 pellets at a time. But we live in an exception. 300 pellets are released from one shot and they are not as non-lethal as claimed by the security agents and the governing bodies.

Pellet guns did not merely cause death. In majority of the cases it caused something graver. It caused the death of dreams and hopes. Ideally they should have been shot below waist area. Instead every injured person with pellets was hit above waist. Most of them hit in head and eyes. Some wounds recoverable, others not so. The worst sorts of injuries were in eyes. And even worse the news that they had lost eye sight.

What was moving was an interview of a journalist with one similar patient. He had been operated upon but recovery of his eyesight was unachievable. When he was asked about his dreams, he said, “ Earlier I had but now everything is black. Nothing is left.” And tears had started gushing out of his eyes. Gloom. It was not merely the loss of eyesight. It was not merely a genocide. It was not a mere mob dispersing technique. It was intentional breaking of dreams, lives and souls. How could a democracy do this to its own people (and an integral part)?

The answer was more political than human. A solution which no one was ready to implement. Egos’ and personal motives stood higher than humanity. And the streets of Kashmir were forever painted red.

 

Of Here and There

Apart from the stark contrast of culture and lack of mountains, one thing was very apparent at the new place. Wherever you look, however far you try to search there is no army man standing with  a loaded gun. This seemed so abnormal. Back home an army man could be found every 100 metres or even less but here…  She was clueless as to why. That was the first time she realised her homeland was a conflict zone. And that it was captive and yearning. All the people had a single dream. Freedom!

Adjusting to Indian society and culture was difficult. People usually asked very difficult and strange questions. Is it safe there? Have you seen terrorists? Does it blast every day? And they go on and on. That was when she knew the partial news coverage Indian media provided. For them it was merely a piece of land. For her? Kashmir! It was difficult to give them answers and bring forth the reality of Kashmir. Not because of the complexity of the conflict but because of the adamant nature of her questioners. They knew only one thing. “Mera Bharat Mahaan”. And they would not listen to a word spoken against India. Or to something that would paint India in bad light. They could not bring themselves to think or realise that India could be wrong and atrocious too.

Amongst all this a news took everyone like a storm. A guy had turned a militant and was now attacking army convoys. Army and CRPF were being attacked. It seemed as if armed struggle had started afresh. Following the news of blasts and killings she came to know about the person doing all this. (A name that means “bearer of good news”). This person claimed responsibility of all the recent attacks on the Indian army and forces. He also sent a strong message to counterparts in India, “We will earn our freedom soon.”

(the name). It was stuck in her mind. She could not understand why. Later, videos and pictures of the guy, who was by now being hailed as a hero, emerged. And she got her answer. She knew this guy. Not only did she recognise him, she even had memories of him.

She vividly remembered the smile that was always on display on (his name)’s face. How he displayed empathy with everyone. His kindness was an example in the whole school. Even teachers adored him and said the level of humanity he had was exceptional. He could not harm even a fly. Today the same guy was hurling grenades at humans. Unimaginable.

(his name) had lost his father very early in his life. Bought up by his mother alone, he knew her hardships and made sure he caused her no additional headaches. He was the calmest child of his age. His siblings were an elder sister who helped run the household with her mother and a twin. He always thought he was bestowed with the best mother and sister anyone could have. And his twin was like his own shadow. Inseparable.

It was late November. The sky was dark with black clouds and light was low even during the day. It had been snowing all night and it seemed to continue the whole day. Despite being the first snow of the season there was a strange lull in the atmosphere. As if something was utterly wrong somewhere and yet nothing could be done.  That day his brother was untraceable. He searched whole of their place but he was nowhere to be seen. Mother told him that he had moved out to buy some snacks. The nearest shop was a mile away. So (his name) started walking towards the shop. All the way long streets were strangely desolate. And the army numbers were higher than usual. Sensing trouble, he hurried. As he reached the shop, he met a strange sight. The snow was no more white. It was red. Even snow had withdrawn support. On the molten red part of the snow lay his brother. Shot dead.

For months together he did not talk to anyone. Neither did he attend school. He could hardly sleep. And when he did, he woke up shouting and crying. Doctors said he was suffering from PTSD. PTSD is not so uncommon in Kashmir. Almost half of the population suffers from it. Almost everyone has seen dead bodies, heard gun shots and grenades go off. People have dreams of identification parades and gun shots. And who held those killer guns? Army.

For a long time (his name) was depressed and could not resume his daily life. Probably he could not accept the loss. How could anyone ever anticipate losing a twin. It was after a year that he could finally face the reality and resume his life. It was difficult but he did all he could. Sometimes he would break down in middle of activities. Sometimes in midst of a crowd. That seemed to be the most difficult part of his life. Only if we knew better.

It was his higher secondary school exams. The ones parents say are the way to an easy life (the most common lie though). He had studied hard and thought he could ace the exams. It was the physics exam day. He was glad for he had attempted whole of the paper satisfactorily. But as he reached home that day, a new pain was awaiting him. In his absence some army men had entered their home forcibly and tried to impose themselves on the ladies. When the ladies did not yield they took them along with. Later, their bodies were found in a nearby brook. Both of them dead.

Rapes, forced disappearances and deaths were not new to Kashmir. But when this all happens to someone first hand it is difficult to bear. That day he felt helpless. His brother had not been given justice. And when he wanted justice for his mother and sister, he was met with same fate. Post-mortem reports were altered. Rules were bent. And the killers were given a free passage along with a transfer. Justice was murdered once again. Again, like all those years when 100’s of youth were killed and no one was held responsible.

The day he realised he could not get justice in the Indian legal system did he make up his mind. He wanted to avenge the deaths. Not just of his family but of Kashmir. Of the 1000’s of martyrs who laid their lives to free it from the occupation. That day he disappeared.

She could still remember the day like it had happened yesterday. (his name) had not appeared in any other exam. Nor could anyone get him to talk or do anything. It was the onset of depression. And this later led to his disappearance. Some said he killed himself in grief. Others said he crossed over the border. But no one did anything. Moot spectators.

It had been a year since his disappearance. He had returned as suddenly as he had disappeared. His eyes still spoke of the ordeal he had met. His pain had not died away. Time did not heal his wounds. Incurable.

Yet, whenever she had conversation with her Indian class fellows they held him wrong. He was labelled a terrorist even without hearing his side of the story. News anchors shouted to establish their point. People started discussing him on national television. But they never knew what provoked him. She wanted to ask them how they would feel if their brother was out to fetch snacks and was shot at without any fault. Was it some play? Was he a wax model? A target to practice upon? She wanted to ask them if they had ever reached home and found that some army men had misbehaved with their mother and later killed her? Would they still worship their country, their army as they do now?

Her staunch Indian fellows were blindfolded by the media and their national chauvinist mentality. The truth never reached them. She wanted to tell them his truth. But then are Kashmiri students studying outside the state not killed and labelled terrorists or lodged in jails for no fault? Or even worse, they sometimes merely disappear. And quiet she kept.

 

Awaited

Amongst the happy, cheerful days
a streak of darkness creeped in
and gradually it took roots
a stray doubt; a silly fear.

With a blow of destiny
everything was suddenly dark
all the blossoms died away
and all hope engulfed.

For a long long time,
things remained gloomy
and someday hope beamed
results still awaited…

In Need

I felt I needed help
And something to occupy my mind

I needed to talk and let out
but  I had none around!

It was painful-
the way people behaved

I didn’t know what was wrong
And what triggered it all

But it somehow pinched me
awoke somehow the cruel me

I don’t know who would receive it all
But I was again the real me

I know I looked damn ugly
And was again turning short tempered

I know this awoke my strength
Or maybe the stubborn me

And though I knew its consequences-
I would be the most hurt

I still wanted to be that one gal
who once had guts to do all!

Priorities

She cried, bewildered
where had the child gone?
But where had she been when
the soul was alone at home
trying not to be afraid
future can hold unknowns!

She looked around for her child
but it was long gone
Where was she when it cried
hungry and so tired
figuring out how to cook,
seeking mother in distress?

She asked, “Why it left early
Was it not too young to die?”
Where was she when he wanted to play
and was shooed away?
made to feel like unwanted
a burden onto the family?

She pleaded them to let it be
and not take it away from her
Where was she when it cried for her
seeking her affection and protection.
When all it desired was her
and she busy with other!

She looked around in despair
It had waited for her hopelessly
She seeks when it no more was
It sought when ignored so hard
And as it parted that fateful day
one lost life and other hope!

Happiness

Looking around broken-hearted
something was amiss
the search continued for years
still not knowing what the yearning was for!

Things had changed and many more
yet they could not come to fore
everything they wanted was there
except the heart’s desire for peace.

Something would always go wrong
a little mistake blown out of proportion
passing blames on one another
and despising the change brought around.

And yet, they never acknowledged
their own roles in the changes
all was fault of the other
and self? A saint!

Suicide

images

There are better ways to cope than die
Gloom and sun equally pass by
Yet we think over the grief
Extending the period meant to be brief
Splitting black on canvas
Thinking it would help with stuff
And yet pain never ceases to be
Unless you will, nobody can help thee!

Rage

A sudden, wild rage
something burning, as if caged
It caught me unaware,
shouting, crying and what not.
A strong force was in formation
and only growing by the passing time.
It felt like a monster
wrecking and breaking everything
Though I held the force,
it felt all so helpless.
Everything seemed so distant
Even I wasn’t me
And yes, monsters are real,
one lives within!

Agitated

When we choose to stay far from the true love of our lives, we deprive ourselves of their care and concern. And all the while away from them we tend to search for love to suffice. But who can love us more? We find this too soon that the world is unkind and cruel leaving us irritated and angry on ourselves.

Regain yourself. Don;t be angry, just return to the love of life. The care and peace of heart would set everything right. Believe and it would be!