From the Spirited to a Heart-Broken Kashmir, How I Endured it All

Hera was visiting a friend in Kashmir when the abrogation of Article 370 was announced.

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My Report
4 min read
Azadi painted along the wall of a house in Srinagar. 
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5 August 2019.

I don’t know if this date should be written in all red, or all black. I was sitting in my friend Madiha’s room in Srinagar when the historic verdict was given.

There was no internet, no contact with the outside world whatsoever. But news channels (cable connections were cut, but my friend had Tata Sky, so we had limited access) showed that the outside world is rejoicing, celebrating, and chanting ‘NaMo, NaMo’.

 Black flags hoisted outside houses to express resistance.  
Black flags hoisted outside houses to express resistance.  
(Photo Courtesy: Hera Sajid)

But what were the people of Kashmir saying? They were silenced. They don’t have a voice; they are being told that the abrogation of Article 370 is for the benefit of the Kashmiris. But why, I wondered, were they not asked if they were happy about it? Can 38,000 additional troops make them accept this historic decision?

Waiting for the Storm

Things had been tense since two days before the abrogation. We were preparing for impending doom, waiting in anticipation for the sky to fall. I don’t know why I didn’t book my tickets the moment the advisory was issued. I guess I wanted to be with Madiha’s family when this happened. I knew in my heart that this was going to be monumental. We all did. But Madiha asked me to enjoy as much as I could before the storm took us all down. And it did.

It felt like 3 August 2019 was our last day of freedom. We had gone out, stayed in a Shikara, the three of us – Madiha, her younger sister and I. We were scared to go at first, there was tension in the atmosphere, but my friend didn’t want us to wait and waste our bargained time with fate.

Calm before the storm in Kashmir. 
Calm before the storm in Kashmir. 
(Photo Courtesy: Hera Sajid)

We called the shikara owner and asked him if it was safe for three girls to stay the night in the boat. He said, “Yes of course. Abhi halaata theek hai!” (the situation is fine for now).

So we went. Little did I know, everything was to change quickly.

I had come in a Kashmir that had hope, had a spirit, and was a ‘state’ with a so called ‘special’ status, and I will leave from a Kashmir that is torn, heartbroken and scared.

The next day, I had an appointment for a root canal treatment.

My Toothache and Kashmir’s Resilience

It was one of those days that made us feel it is not so bad after all. What timing, I know! The doctor preponed my appointment from 6 August to the 4th, keeping in mind the halaat (conditions).

The neighbours’ kids playing with their grandfather on 5 August, oblivious of the news.
The neighbours’ kids playing with their grandfather on 5 August, oblivious of the news.
(Photo Courtesy: Hera Sajid)

He said, “Let’s not leave you hanging. Let’s finish this up in one go before you leave for Delhi, as we don’t know what the next few days have in store for us.”

I sat there with a toothache, a heart ache and a head that was about to burst after listening to the Indian media and the silence in the Valley.

Funnily, the toothache became the highlight of my trip, because it made me realise just how resilient Kashmir is, and I wanted to carry that back in my heart (even if it was just a filling in my tooth). Weird, isn’t it? How I have only known this place for a few days, yet I am unable to take myself out of the valley.

In the morning the same day, Madiha’s nanu (maternal grandfather), while listening to shallow debates on news channels told us, “Now you should go and see Pahalgam.”

He wanted my friend to take me to Gulmarg and Pahalgam. I don’t know why he said that. I know that I can’t see Pahalgam anymore. Nobody can see Gulmarg and Pahalgam anymore.

(The author is a freelance assistant director based in Mumbai, and has previously worked on Andhadhun and Student of the Year 2 . All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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