Newton and the other Tral Boys: Three funerals and a story

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Circa 1991. Kashmir has practically come to a stand still.  The  intense conflict in and over Kashmir has pervaded the psyche and consciousness of all Kashmiris. The times are fraught, tense and uncertain.  I am eighteen years old then. Under normal conditions, I should be thinking of a career-in short, a life. But my mental, emotional and inner world is determined by the conditions that obtain in Kashmir- the quotidian killings, the tense and fraught environment and an empathy for all Kashmiris. My self has elongated to incorporate the community self and it is tied to the ups and downs of the collective emotions of the community. The angst is existential. My family senses my existential travails and tricks me into leaving Kashmir. I am told my Grand pa is ill and needs me in Delhi. As I arrive in Delhi, I am told that I have been admitted into a college of repute.

I see meaninglessness in my existence.  My heart and soul are in Kashmir; only my body is in Delhi.

My English Professor- a woman of great sensitivity and intelligence- senses my angst and takes me under her wing, so to speak.  She begins to counsel me with great empathy and skill.

The angst is too deep and the inner world too turbulent to yield to the counsel of my English professor.

I drift.

I am unable to relate to my fellow students. I make no friends and I find it difficult to get decent grades.

That I am in Delhi – safe from the turbulence in Kashmir- is consolation enough for my parents.

But my world is Kashmir.

The world is opening up. In the interstices of this world, I am sent overseas- to Australia.

A year elapses. The inner turbulence is relentless.

An Indonesian woman who I have become friends with, after a valedictory by some out going students- looks at be in disbelief and says: “ You are not here. You are stuck in the past and in Kashmir”.

As I look back at those years, I realize the intensity of emotion and the inner turbulence that had gripped me was real. It had affected me deeply and determined the locus of my being. The conflict in and Kashmir had had an overawing and overwhelming effect on me. There was an intense disconnect between my mind, body and soul.

I am 42 now.

I would like to think a natural “healing process” has somewhat allayed my existential despair.  But, alas, others have not been so fortunate and many still are in the throes of the deep vortex of this conflict.

The Traal boys- three young kids- killed in an encounter with the para- military forces yesterday in Kashmir are a case in point. One of the boys was nick names “ Newton” by his neighbors and friends for his academic brilliance.

The conflict in and over Kashmir has snuffed out their lives.

Three young boys who should have been thinking about careers, lives, family, a future-were caught in the orgy of conflict in Kashmir.

The incident made me jog down the memory lane.

The Traal boys  too must have  caught in the vortex of the conflict in Kashmir and the melee of violence thereof.  Their emotional worlds and inner lives would have been determined by the conflict. They then must have taken the extreme step and, of course, once in the cross hairs of the state, their days then would be numbered.

The state has added numbers to the number of militants killed; few more statistics in the graph of insurgency and counter insurgency, news items for newspapers and funerals for the boys but the underlying reality in Kashmir remains the same. The conflict has not gone and will endure.  The conflict and the deaths related to the conflict will animate the imagination and emotions of many more boys. Some will exit Kashmir; others may stay put and some others will die.

The baton of conflict has been passed onto Kashmir’s Gen Next.

This Gen Next’s emotional calculus, inner world and imagination too will not be free from the encumbrances of the conflict in and over Kashmir. It will be  the locus around which their emotional and psychical worlds will gyrate to. And , alas, this wont change till the conflict is resolved- in a way that is satisfiscing to all stakeholders.

Will this day ever arrive? Perhaps.

Hope, as they say, springs eternal in the human heart.

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