I recognised the unknown number flashing on my phone from the prefix area code. I knew that it was my mother. She had gone to market (which of course, was closed) as my little cousin wanted a chocolate. But I wish, I could tell her that the situation is as such that Kashmiri kids are more susceptible to pellets than chocolates.
The first sentence that was uttered by my mother on the phone after 14 days was, “Seab jaan o, tche chukka theek, zuv haa wandai, tchatea tchatea haa aeses karaan kath karhaa bae tche seet.” Translating this would be tough, because these are not merely just words but emotions. But I’ll still try my best: “Oh, my beloved son. Are you good? May I take upon myself all disasters coming into your life. I was getting frustrated as I didn’t know when would I get to listen to your voice.”
Since it was not our landline and neither was it STD/PCO booth, I suggested I would call her because I knew we would talk for long.
We spoke about my little brother Faisal, who is doing B Tech. My mother was very concerned about him as he has just moved out of home, away from family. She asked me, “Do you daily call Faisal? Don’t let him feel alone. Do ask him if he need anything.” And she burst into tears.
All these days, when I couldn’t reach out to my family, I managed to reach out to Srinagar’s prominent radio station. The radio station was taking requests from Kashmiris staying outside the state who wanted to send across messages to their families.
It was quite possible that no one from my family would listen to the message, yet I was sure that someone from our locality would. And that’s exactly what happened. While talking on the phone with my mother, she said,
“Uncle told me you were on radio. I got a new life when I received your message that you are all right.”
In all these 14 days, my biggest concern was the medicine for my mother. She is a rheumatoid arthritis patient and needs regular doses, otherwise her pain gets worse. This was the only thought that pierced my mind daily. I asked mom about the medicines.
She told me she’d handed over her prescription to the ambulance driver who ferries patients and other medical staff to Srinagar from where we live. I didn’t know how to react. While I was happy that she got her medicines, how she got them made me numb.
There Was no Sacrifice This Eid
Eid ul Adha is famous for qurbani (sacrifice). As far as I can recollect, there has not been a single Eid when we didn’t sacrifice a sheep or goat. But mom said this was the first time we couldn’t buy a sheep. There were two reasons why. First, the shepherds were not able to reach every nook and corner due to the curfew and my father’s salary wasn’t disbursed on Eid.
I started asking about other family members and relatives. No one had visited and there was no information about them either. Mom doesn’t know the status of my 80-year-old grandmother. A day before Eid, Nazir sahib had developed a heart ache and was taken in emergency to a near-by hospital. He suffered a heart attack but my aunt doesn’t know that her brother had one. After four days, his son Maajid somehow managed to reach Charari Shareef and tell my uncle and aunt about it. My aunt had burst into tears.
My hometown Charari Shareef is the same place which was in the news in May 1995, when the whole town was burnt to ashes during a three-month long battle between the army and militants.
Nearly 10,000 people had to leave the area and return after months just to see their houses razed to ground, including mine.
Even Letters Didn’t Reach my Mother
Before Eid, my friend Ehsaan had travelled back home to Srinagar from Delhi without knowing how to travel from the airport to his house. When he landed at Srinagar and asked the only taxi driver he saw to drop him, he was told “Forget 30 kms, at the maximum I can drop you at Chanapora bypass (6 km from the airport) and will charge Rs 1500.”
I had sent a very important message for my family via him but it was never delivered. First day, he tried to go to the Tehsil office near my house where cops were stationed but they didn’t allow anyone to cross. Second day, again unsuccessful. On Eid, he was hopeful to cross the barricade and reach the grand masjid area near my house, but he and his father were stopped once more.
My message travelled 800 kms from Delhi to Kashmir but couldn’t reach my mother. I didn’t understand why a son’s message was stopped from reaching a mother. Was it an anti-national message? Would it have created a law and order problem for the state?
While I am happy I could finally talk to my mother, the way the government has handled this issue, it seems many mothers won’t see their sons soon. Thousands have been detained and pellets and bullets fired. The darkness seems unending but hope can’t betray us as we cling to it strongly. This, at a time when the rest of the country has turned its eyes away from us and a large section of people are enjoying the plight of Kashmir either openly or with their silence.
A handful of friends texted me and I am grateful to them, but the criminal silence of most other friends in Delhi shocked me. Many felt “sad” for Kashmir but didn’t bother to send me a text expressing their solidarity. If they could tell me, “We stand with you” or “Don’t worry, everything will be alright” or ask me “Did you speak to your family?” or “Do you need any help?”, it would have made these tough times a little easy.
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