Tormentor

I sit with him, Ah! the pleasure
His eyes, the way he smiles
chiseled biceps!

He asks, I speak
The trauma at my heart
What is it that keeps poking me

I speak of red,
The spilled colour
The bundle of joy dead on a street

I speak of a bed
Devoid of rest
Haunted by nightmares

I speak of rooms;
Painful, brutal sounds
Electrocution

I speak, unaware
the words incoherent
the ache, constant….

My tormentor, moved to tears
I, unphased, numb
unaffected

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He is a Human Too!

tufail-mattoo3

Talking of home, peace
the beauty of my place
the calm,
Paradise

We somehow reach conflict
the tug-of-war
nobody ready to give in
the dilemma of rope!

I narrate how, every year
we lose sons to bullets
how, abruptly
our streets are painted red

How, out of blues
a pellet hits your eye
How, in an instant
the world turns black!

I explain the mass graves
AFSPA, PSA
Tufail, Zahid, Wamiq Farooq
their graves asking for crimes

Fake encounters, promotions
disappearances
Half-widows, orphans, posthumous
Machil!

Crackdowns, rapes, torture
Papa II, Mama II
Bullets, pellets
Teargas shells!

He asks, “Why are you silent
how can you bear someone
barging doors
killing beloved

Why don’t you retaliate
fight back
serve them as deserved
An eye for an eye!

How could talks help
why yearn for justice
why empty handed
missing rifle…

How could you just sit around
mumb over blood bath
does your blood not boil
Are you so weak at heart?”

How could I explain
I have closely seen pain, death
and when I kill
does his family not die like mine?

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.

 

Beyond…

She could see beyond that paint
Beyond that smile that was feigned

Beyond that fair blushed face
Their true colours lay barren

Spending time around, she knew
There was none to call own

Amongst claims of being close
Care was the easiest thing to feign

Beyond conversations she could see
The slight changes of expressions

And though they claimed friendship
They frowned on mention of needs

They did what people call care
Only that it wasn’t real

They were all messy portraits
Crafty, painted, lifeless…

And she knew they would break
Her heart the day she trusted!

Pained

Oh! Look my son is back home
Did I not say he would come?
He loves me more than anyone else
How could he abandon.

Come my son, you must be hungry
Toiling through the day, thirsty
Let me serve you some food to eat
Drink some water, thirst’s defeat

But why are you so silent today
Has it been too hectic day
Did you not enjoy the stuff
Or was all the work a handcuff

Look, we have many guests too
Everybody came in to see you
Won’t you talk to them even?
Would you be that rude?

Someone suddenly said, “Let go off him, sister
He was hit by a canister
His soul departed that moment
He will reside in Jannah, be content”

She replied in an angry voice
He is with me, my rejoice
And how dare you call him dead,
Don’t touch him, he’s my blood

He would not go anywhere
Like this he can’t leave me in despair
He promised he would stay by me
Then how can his early his soul flee?

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.

 

Misdeeds

A moment, decision, fire shot
A hole, shock, blood spill

Tears, moans, nightmares
Scalpels, doctors, injectables

Critical, ventilator, death bed
Roses, almonds, farewell

Outcries, protests, condemnation
Clarification, justification, a rebel

Inquiry, a panel, delayed report
Corruption, variation, justice sold

Sit-ins, marches, court cases
Consolation, cash, injustice

Defaulters free, no penalty
Genocide, and bravery

Brave

There was one thing being repeated over and again
“I don’t really care, it’s all fine”
Though brains tried to reflect
Heart had turned rebellious
It was chaos, no, a war
An invisible, internal fight
Though outside they thought it happy
Nothing could internally be worse
What fun they assumed it to be
Being internally fought and torn apart

Awaited

She was jolly that day. A day out with her best friend. What else can cheer up  a person more than a friend. They didn’t do anything extraordinary. Only a walk down the road and a dessert in a famous shop. As she was relishing her dessert, she suddenly noticed he was gone. Nowhere within site or in the shop. A quick glance around confirmed that. She frantically got up to check the streets for him. No clue. He was gone!

A cry escaped her lips. Scanning her surroundings she realized she was home. It was still dark. Clock on the wall read 2. A nightmare! Relieved, she went back to sleep.

The next day she met her friend. Together they laughed on the weird dream. At that moment they could not conceive the thoughts of separation. They had no reason after all. There was no possibility.

As much as they liked each other’s company, people envied them equally. As per the traditions of our society, their friendship was condemned on all levels. The most common thing? “A guy and a girl can never be just friends!” To counter them, they only had truth. Their minds had never wandered to the romantic sides. They did not consider gender when together. They were just two souls searching and seeking together.

But our society does not take rest easily, or does it? His friends started to taunt him. And ask about their relation too.
“Are you flirting with her?”
“Is she your girlfriend?”
“Are you two in a relationship?”
“What is going on between you two? You two are always together!”

After some time the guy snapped contacts with her. No explanations, no goodbyes. This sudden change of behaviour drove her crazy. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t contact him and didn’t know why.

She had hopes he would return, If only for a final goodbye, but he would. She kept waiting, pinging him. Neither did he reply nor did he offer any explanation.

She kept wondering whether he was not affected at all. Did the sudden parting of ways not affect him?  Not the least? Depressed, she kept wondering what had happened. Was he so fed up with societal pressure that he gave up a cherished friendship? Or did the taunts of society reflect his true feelings? Was he somehow inclined to his friend? To her? Did he love her as they all said? Or did he quit so she may not have to hear anything?

In the dark cold nights she kept wondering. Why did he quit? She awaited an answer. None arrived. And the void remained!

Has our conscience died?

They always said a girl is the family’s pride and prestige. Why, they never revealed.

Years passed. I saw girls and boys medling together. Some as friends, some as boyfriends. Yet, during discussions and debates only a girl was blamed. I wondered what was wrong with people’s mind. Never could I sort out.

While erring one day, someone wise told me, “A girl has little prestige earned in all the years and a boy has little less. But a guy’s prestige never diminishes whatever he may do. On the contrary, a single mistake on a girl’s part proves fatal for her prestige. Usually nothing remains.”

Society does not think of evil as both sided, girls get to blame. Guys can do all they want. I wondered why…

Then I realised suddenly, girls have some kind of power. They can really make guys crazy, a puppet in their hands. One gaze and guys forget what they should and should not. A guy with strings pulled by a girl can’t really decide what to do, or can they?

Society blamed maybe to regulate. Maybe they thought girls could make world a better place. Maybe by blaming, they wanted to keep a check onto their behaviour.

But then why should someone be dependent on societal pressure to do right? Is our generation so lost that we need laws to regulate?

Has our conscience died?