On a balmy spring day on April 3, the iconic Dal Lake Boulevard in Srinagar fleetingly came alive with life, as a high-profile visitor arrived to preside over the much-awaited farewell.
The moment was being badly awaited by those whose wards became the pandemic prisoners there, a fortnight ago.
One parent would later describe the reunion with his daughter as “another shot at life”.
Unlike Kashmir’s politically-plagued gatherings, the one witnessed on Friday took place in complete privacy, bereft of the signature tear-jerking scenes.
Cops lined up, clapping, as students finally stepped out of the hotel-turned-isolation ward.
Herded together for a mandatory quarantine period to keep tab on the virus gone rogue, many young Kashmiris came out cheery, signaling the end of their nightmare, flashing a masked victory sign in the times of great distress.
A hope amid hopelessness.
The man walking up to that “picturesque” quarantine centre was the South Asia’s second oldest city’s ‘official poster boy’, in the Covid-19 fight back.
Dr. Shahid Chowdhary as Srinagar Magistrate had earlier sounded akin to a prophet of doom, in an attempt to enforce a regimental social distancing in Srinagar, where alarm bells rang after a downtown lady with a travel history to the Holyland was tested first Covid-19 positive case in Kashmir.
The IAS officer’s Covid-19 crusade, however, isn’t just about the heaps of praises, which his fanboys, including who’s who in town, shower upon him.
His detractors make no bones about a chink in his administration armour.
Many see his real-life role bigger and beyond his ‘full of zip’ twitter handle.
Once done with farewell ritual and some quick media bytes on Friday, the masked magistrate walked on the facelifted sidewalk, and rested on the rundown bund.
He sat in the backdrop of ‘desolation’, the term popularized by another Shahid—“the beloved”, “the witness”.
Agha Shahid Ali extensively used the term to describe his discord-disturbed homeland in his seminal poetic volume, The Veiled Suite.
The poems of the bard who lost his life battle to a brain tumour in 2001 have now become a creative expression as well as anthem for many young Kashmiris.
Some of the poetic shades were blatant on the sun-washed Friday, as the poet’s namesake, the magistrate fleetingly enacted the desolation act at the ghats of deserted Dal Lake.
At a stone’s throw, a weary boatman was taking a nap while waiting for his customers who were reluctant to show up.
Two masked men, apparently hailing from the battered boatmen community, were basking under the spring sun. They looked oblivious of the times ahead of them.
Nearby, a fumigator donning paramilitary fatigues was ‘warding off the evil’ from the official scene.
When he finally walked away, Shahid only vindicated his namesake, by leaving behind a haunting streak of desolation in the deserted lake.
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