KASHMIR has always been a macabre site of stifled stories inflicted by decades of conflict. Hundreds and thousands of them lay scattered across —unmarked and unnamed. Last year marked an upsurge in such stories of horror with collective pain reaching a crescendo after the breakdown of communication channels adding an extra layer of suffering to the wounded tissue of pain.
Like the rest of us, I also started spilling my frustrations on my dairy which has now become a haunting memoir of confiscation of sukoon. Initially, I would write out of rage that I felt to the marrow of my bones but eventually it became a helpless habit. The only thing I could do was to record the calendar of miseries.
On 25th of August the entry went: “Here dates don’t mean anything. As for our collective incarceration, it has been twenty days. Living a life in siege feels not only impossible but blasphemous too. So all we do is just exist quietly, carrying the weight of the skin onto our bones musing if the possible imminent end will allow our bodies find a patch of the soil or turn it into a graphic material impossible to look at. Helicopters keep droning in the confused skies, drowning out the mellifluous cooing of birds, pulverizing our hopes that our loved ones will be fine”
Days passed. Like Eid, Ashura was swallowed up by the foreboding monster of siege but the Karbala of silence inflicted on us seemed unprecedented; invading every bit of sanity. Baba, in his personal regular duel with the communication blockade would try to win the favour of frequencies so that he could tune-in to BBC Urdu on my late grandfather’s radio that had long functioned only as a revered relic of the past.
In the hope of finding some reprieve, I would often jump to my next-door friend’s in the hope of gleaning some favourable news marking the regional and international politics vis-à-vis Kashmir. Together sometimes, our quest for peace would take us to a local hospice which stands adjacent to her home. But finding peace is not that simple in Kashmir. On the 28th of August as we were leaving for Maghrib prayers toward the hospice, an alarm was sounded by my friend’s mother-
‘Offer your prayers here. Somebody in the neighbourhood has been picked up by police”. Hysteria hung over the entire neighbourhood, “Wails and cries from the neighbourhood flung sickness into the morbid air”
A year has elapsed since the abrogation of the special status of Kashmir and a multi-layered lockdown in the times of pandemic is still in place. Peace is still elusive, yet I continue to hold onto the politics of hope in real life which I spill onto the paper thus:
a concertina wire seems to have sprouted in my throat
the one which violates the weave
of my needle-embroidered duppatta
everytime i try to walk free in my lane, or some street, or a highway along the paddy field
The concertina in my throat
violates my breath, my speech
and my comprehension suffocates
with deoxygenated brain
Mother offers liquorice Kehwa
Herbs do not decompose metal,
İ try to tell her, my speech cracking like isband seeds in a kangri
two pools of salt condense around my eyes
Mother picks up her rosary
İ pick my Kalima
the concertina wire in the lane
becomes a smooth clothesline
My speech is free
İ am free
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