By Aabid Rehman Pala
The sun was about to break the horizon towards the cerulean September sky like the lotus from the marshy Dal or a tulip from the bud jostling to emanate. The hallelujah from the mosques down the ridge was slowly subduing. Parents who are fortunate enough to have their children alive beatifically enjoy the brew of salt tea with them early in the morning. Old people coming back from mosques with numinous faces tease the snotty children at home over a cherished razzmatazz. The pesky children engage in play with the scar of snot on their cheeks after being wiped by the mother’s fraying scarf. While in some houses where the mother sips the brown salt tea heavy hearted round the hearth and father quietly listening the morning news on the radio, the scene is quite different. Instead of wiping the snot of their children they clandestinely wipe the tears off their eyes. They have lost the ones with whom they could wipe off their sadness. The world seems desolate to them, even the twitter of chirping birds haunt their souls. Their tulips have stopped to bloom. Their desperation has a reason and loneliness a tale to tell.
In the September morning, everything tranquil and placid was waiting for the gods to wake up who after living in the valley enamoured to it and refused to leave. Birds rustling their feathers and tucking themselves were all set for the day long toil, chasing the insects over the hypnotising mountains, fields and green pastures while few after basking, ablute in the small sinuous runlets gushing through the swerve mountains. Rivulets and brooks carry the dry leaves and twigs along and splash their spick and span water on kissing the rocks amidst them. Trees, a stone throw away at the steep mountains bedazzle with the cool and refreshing breeze emanating from the gushing brooks. The baby birds sleeping in the wicker apartments upon them slowly and exhilarately stretch their exquisite limbs in euphoria and open their tiny eyes like the dew ridden sun flower in the lugubrious garden of Pari Mahal elated to see the sun.
The ridge below, impregnated with the small mauve bunkers of pickets and sentries and modest houses and shacks made of sun-baked bricks and adobe mushroomed all around. Smoke emanating from their chimneys suspend in the air and wait for the fragrant gusts of wind to mingle with and have a journey of mesmerising mountains and meadows along. The dew drops on the turf glint and reflect the early spikes of sunlight like the pearls stewn by the gods. Brambles, sedges and wild grass on the banks of rivulets with rudimentary flowers atop continuously hunch by the gusts of breeze and have an early morning bath before paying obedience to gods like the disciple at the Makhdoom Sahab shrine after having a dip in the Jhelum. The prodigious nature was at its extreme best and epitomising the archetypal architecture of God.
They halted their journey and decided to loosen up and call it a night. They were fatiqued, dead beat and worn-out by the night long arduous trekking of mountains and immediately dozed off resting their heads on the holdall and raised turf. The zephyr from the rivulets continuously sway their tousled hair over their grim faces. When the heaven up and the world below was coming to life, the phalanx was burping heavily. They passed the day sleeping, talking, eating their measly food and over stealth baths and when the night fell again, they slowly resumed their journey to abscond along the Line of Control over the swerve mountains that overlook the valley of Kashmir on the both sides of L.O.C.
The nature had changed its mood from a pleasant weather to a chilling cold. The whole ambiance crammed by the tap of crickets and bats. The unabated howls of wolves after bumping their ears resonante in the whole valley and disturb the sound sleep of birds. The sandy, vermillion and chartreuse leaves brittled by the day long sun trample under their feet with a patter of crunches. In the twilight, rocks standing at a distance appear to be the silhouettes of grotesque demons or a black inebriate and moustached rambo. The sun had slept and everything looked gloomy. This all present a paranoid and horror ambiance all around in the posh dark valley. They clandestinely strided towards a narrow and rickety culvert athwart the rivulet when they heard a loud bang that resound the whole valley and subdued the whispering insects and howling wolves. Creepy birds slightly open their eyes and set them back to sleep while few came out of their nests and swooshed helter-skelter over the trees on hearing the harrowing sounds. The thought that a serious peril is in the offing, crossed their mind. They looked round petrified, grisled and perceived that they were being chased by a ferocious platoon. The bang of gunshots grew louder and louder and in the next moment before they could contemplate what to do, their dead torsos lay scattered all around.
Faiz, a South Kashmir boy was the only son of his parents. His father was a school teacher and his mother, a housewife. They kept everything on stake to educate their only son and want him to be a better man. He in return was very obedient to his parents. Apart from his studies he would always help them in the daily house hold chores. He was loved by his parents very much as being their only son. They would hardly allow him to attend the school on Friday because very often after the Friday congregational prayers the situation would turn violent. Youth would hit the streets and hurl stones on security forces amidst the chanting of pro freedom slogans, who in return would fire pellets and bullets indiscriminately, maiming and blinding dozens. Faiz was a numb boy and fobes to all this violence and turbulence and thought stone pelting as a vague activity, the job of illiterates. He passed his matriculation when the valley was wallowing in upheaval and unrest. Subsequent to it he was sent to a boarding school for further studies where he happened to meet a boy from North Kashmir, Farooq.
Farooq, a tall, elegant Kupwara boy with ginger hair, solid and taut body and tender in behaviour. The conscience of the two boys was contrasting. Faiz never paid any heed towards the Friday happenings in his locality while on the other hand Farooq was a passionate stone pelter. He would often tell Faiz stories relating the same. A dire rage could be seen in his eyes, the time he narrates the stories of the youth pelting stones and fighting the pickets across the Cement Bridge Kupwara, of whom he often would be part of. He showed Faiz the scars he got on his leg after a teargas shell hit his cnemis in the 2010 unrest. Faiz became his fan right from the first day. The fan of his deserved anger, his calibre and stubborn attitude and of his bravery and aspire. Sometimes if Faiz would talk about girls as most teenagers do, he would rebuke, reprimand and refrain him from talking such nasty and vain things. He was not interested in all this. Faiz once stammerly asked him, Farooq, do you have a girlfriend? No, he replied angerly while his eyes blazed with fury, “My girlfriend is AK-47 and my bride is freedom“, he added while making some strange gestures that showed an acute aura of truthfulness in his words. This was the pellucid and precise answer for the aim of his life. He was keen of crossing the border and choose the path of insurrection. Faiz felt disquiet as he noticed his aim as weird and obscure. He spent that night in turmoil and unease, thinking about Farooq and his fatal dream. Nodoubt, his conscience was towards the denial side. He don’t want him to take up the arms, but couldn’t muster the courage to tell him.
In Kashmir, everyone is not a conformist about thier aim to be a doctors, engineer or a business hauncho. But a large number of youth want to join the militancy even after pursuing their masters or engineering degrees. This is the bitter truth. May be tyranny, harassment might be the reasons behind it, not the brainwash or provoking of any third party. Because miseries and hardships created by the state are the basic reasons of a revolution in it. After leaving the school they promised eachother to be in touch. They would almost call each other daily over phone and remind each other of the good old days over gossips and laughter. After two years or so of their acquaintanceship, Farooq informed him about his marriage. He was engaged to Saima, a local girl from his neighbouring village. He also sent him some photos that they have taken before their engagement somewhere in Kupwara. It was the moment of sheer bliss for Faiz. He thought he might have forgot his old girlfriend he was in love with and the bride he want to marry. But he proved him wrong. His first love was his last. He was enthusiastic at his aim. Then one Sunday morning Saima called Faiz up and ventured that Farooq had left clandestinely last night. Faiz felt outrageous and earth eroded under his feet on hearing the shocking and abominable news. Though the move by Faiz was not unanticipated still a humanly sympathy arose in him for Saima.
Days passed in eager wait for Farooq, but he didn’t return. One broody evening in mid April, three months after Farooq’s depart, Faiz was shambling through a mustard field with some of his friends. Butterflies of sundry colours fly from flower to flower, dragonflies hovering and breeding over their heads and birds flying for their nests. The sun was trying to hide itself behind the red clouds and sky had turned crimson. He got a call from one of the Farooq’s friend that Farooq has been killed somewhere at the border while crossing over to Pakistan. No doubt the news was whammy. But it did not threw him for a loop. To him, Farooq had died the day he left his family to suffer amid extreme impecuniousness.
Farooq, the insurrector had died. His carrion, lying deep in the Himalayas with shrivelled leaves as his shroud. If not he, may be his bones would have crossed the silly Line of Control seperating the two parts of Kashmir. The vultures would have lugged his bones across after the rabid men eating wolves had left them fleshless. The copious amount of water of the brooks and rivulets might have conveyed his blood with them to the other side of Kashmir. Maybe his skelton would have been distributed among the Kashmir distributing countries by the carnivorus birds.
The death of Farooq slowly forced Faiz towards Psychosis. He began to have obscure nightmares of Farooq where he sees Farooq running with a riffle in the mountains and the angry platoon chasing and firing at him mercilessly. He used to mooch around aimlessly like a wayward. He started daydreaming and used to have bouts of trans where he cudgel his brain about the morass already ablazed around. One Friday afternoon he left his home for the usual aimless walk. A violent protest was going on in the vicinity. Youth were busy with the security forces. As soon as he crossed the road and turned towards the empty swathes, a bullet came from nowhere and hit his abdomen followed by countless pellets. Some ricocheted from his body while some pierced through. He fell down and blood dripped profusely from his body like the water droplets in the dead of winter dripping from the icicles suspended from the thatched roofs. Youth came and shouldered his pellet ridden body. In the next moment another mother had gained the title of ‘Half Mother’ and another father had lost his only hope. He was taken home by the masked youth amidst slogans and wails. He was appraised, kissed, saluted, burried and forgotten.
Post Script:- In Kashmir you are not always fortunate enough to see the coffin of your children, neither could you find the graves where they are burried. Sometimes the death is unseen and the killers are marked unidentified. You could only waft the condolence for the souls of the deceased, bless them for the ultimate sacrifice.
“May your bones rest in peace after they are licked dry by the rabid man-eating wolves”___(Mirza Waheed—Collaborator).
Aabid Rehman Pala is working on his debut novel ‘The Ensnared Childhood’. He is presently pursuing bachelors in English literature at Aligarh Muslim University and hails from Frisal Kulgam (Indian Occupied Kashmir).