I could not feel the shards of glass inside my skin, as I looked over the window, my heart beating a million miles per hour. I did not understand where this bravery had come from, where this sudden voice had taken birth and how had it taken refuge in my bleeding body, broken soul and charred memories, it all seemed so unjust. I knew what had happened. It was not something new, and this was the real ailment, how accustomed we had gotten to the pain, suffering and suppression, it felt like everyday routine, as if we were kids running in the street.
By then I had apprehended, it was probably my numb body, at a loss of sense, of touch, pain and sound for my ears had been accustomed to the guns firing and the bombs exploding. My body had been accustomed to my shoulders being shot and my knees being scratched as I scrambled in the rubble. My eyes had been accustomed to the infinite tears, to the point that I could not register if it was sadness or just the normal tear gas in the atmosphere. I felt deceived when I would look at humanity, what had we become? Animals or just murderers. However, how could I ever answer a question, when my question of freedom remained unanswered. It seemed even more unjust.
I wanted to run, and scream and yell that we are not enemies of mankind, neither are we aliens or monsters or zombies. We are humans, however who knew that the time would arrive when guns would speak for the human soul. If not speaking but even the art of breathing was taken from us, doesn’t it seem more unjust?
And as I hide here, in a building that was once an epitome of warmth, love and family, but now merely a war-torn structure, I look around and see bodies, that were once alive, living, breathing human souls, that would speak and smile, but now they are no more than a pile of blood and flesh for the mosquitoes. It seems even more unjust now.
However, who am I to speak? When it is even more unjust when I fail to feel. To feel pain, sorrow, longing and death. Is it not unjust that I remain here, a singularity in a plurality, because it feels lonely when all those that I knew have moved on and the ones I see and hear are predators even when I belong to their race of humanity, when and how and why and where do I become the prey? Isn’t it all so unjust?
It does not matter who performs the action, it is the action that actually matters or in the case of Kashmir, it is the action that actually kills. It kills dreams, ambitions, love, compassion, families, children and above all that, it takes human life.
Many a times, man considers himself to change all that corrupts and disregards that which is rewarding and prepossessing, and indeed this is the basis of all humanity, specifically with regards to Kashmir and its people. YES, it is unfortunate, that which has happened and that which continues to persist, and YES it hurts the human population to see it happening, however, pity, sympathy and empathy should not be the only tenets that constitute humanity. There is help that is required and there are hands to offer it, what matters is the step we decide to take and the hands we offer to be held.
Why is it that we wake up every morning, living the life that has been given to us and incessantly trying to improve it, and in all of this how do we forget that there ARE people who are dying. There are people who are losing their loved ones and who are suffering. How is it that we speak up when we have to pay for something we did not buy, but somehow are mouths are shut close when humanity suffers for a crime they haven’t even committed, when children who had nothing to do with politics or the hierarchy are born in a household and walk along a street to go to school but are shot just because they hold a pen and the predator holds a gun. Is this what we want to leave in our history, that guns are stronger than pens?
But then again how does this make a point, when you look around you, and you see all these educated human beings, privileged and sitting in gigantic rooms, discussing and talking about an issue and delaying it incessantly. Those people have taken up pens and they still cease to act, then is it not but a failure of the pen itself. How is it even possible that any other clause seems more significant than human life, similar to when you starve for three weeks in a desert, how does anything other than food seems more important. But you see this is the difference, when you sit in a room, with a well-paid job, clothes on the body, a bottle of water at your side, a lunchbox in the bag on your back, a mobile with the entire world in your pocket, eyes to see, a nose for breathing, feet for walking, arms for holding, a roof over your head, a warm bed to lay upon, a family to eat dinner with, friends to joke with and you do not have to think about your loved ones in constant danger, then you often don’t think about the people in Kashmir. You often don’t think about the human suffering or the child that sits in a pool of blood of her mother who died protecting him. You often overlook the sound of guns firing and bombs exploding when all you hear are the voices of your family giggling in the lounge over dessert. What I fail to understand is that, how does that even happen?
I understand that there is not a lot that we might be able to do and that differs from person to person however we can try. If we can go on social media and post pictures about our latest meals, why can we not speak up for those that are not given a voice. Yes, they might not be able to see it but it is not them we aim for, it is for those in hierarchy that have caused this to feel shame of what they have done and to show that the human race is not asleep.
When I sit by myself and look at the blue sky or the white walls around me, I can’t help but be disappointed in myself. What have I done that is of significance? After all that I have learned and persevered through, am I that powerless at the end of the day? Do so many words make this all just more significant or makes me look like everyone else? What am I and what is it that I am doing? The answer was writing. All I know I can do is write. That is what I did. And I know it is not enough and I will not offer any excuses.
A True Story
What hurts me even more is this juxtaposition that I feel. I had been to Kashmir, years ago in the summers. It is an exquisite place, prepossessing and exhilarating like a lover, the moment you would lay eyes upon it, it would take your breath away. And as you would look under the bridge, you would become an entity with the flowing river as it curved around mountains and passed homes along its way to its freedom. You could feel the trees sway in compassion as you would walk along the roads as if the war torn city remained alive on love, ambition and bravery, a kind that I had never felt before.
The surprising element was the normality of all of it. How the two master roots of the same tree were just separated by this gushing, ruthless river which flowed to its own home, on its own accord, not knowing how it separated the families of thousands and the loved ones of millions. However could we really blame nature for our own sorrows and our own trials and tribulations? Was it really what mankind wanted to be reduced to?
The entire city and the towns though beyond visually prepossessing consisted of the most compassionate and kind human beings that I had ever come across and the most beautiful of faces that used to make my heart flood with joy. Little children walking around the sides of roads as the golden light hits the road, making their way to a local town school and they back to their homes along the flowing river. We had decided to stay at the house of a local with his generous and joyous family and soon it was just a matter of minutes before their children became our own siblings as we would jump over rocks beside the river and for once, our identity was not the difference among us.
In fact their family became our family as we would eat dinner together, drink tea in the morning out in the veranda and spend the night star-staring into the sky as we would see the border of the Indian-occupied Kashmir and some type of movement and lights flashing. It alarmed us but not the locals, according to them it was normal behavior and it was then that they showed us their basement in which they would hide when the attacks would break out. Things were much calmer then, but then as I sit miles away from that very place I can’t help but wonder what happened to those people. Are they even still alive? Do they still look up at the sky at night and think about us as we do? And the worse, scares me.
I still remember one of their daughters, walking up to me on the morning that we had to leave, and she gave me a pair of her bangles and I was somewhat surprised by this action, but to her it was all in the prospect of compassion, humanity and love. It still makes me happy of how much mankind and humanity can give for the betterment and compassion in this world, but then it haunts me to see how much our own vested interests and political stability and monetary value can make us oversee this flood of compassion flowing down the river that divides the same Kashmir, of the same people, with different identities but the same belonging to humanity and a fire glowing in the hearts even if the bombs descend and the bullets knock at their doors.
My message is not one in vain, it is one that demands. That demands either your compassion and strength if that is all you can give and demands further more for a change for a better tomorrow. If you can sit and say and feel for others, they why do we hinder when we have to act. We have all felt pain, longing and suffering, and we have all demanded the warmth of others during that time, then why is it that when we see others suffering our hearts and souls turn cold towards them? Why is it that when you and I speak for what is right and just, that our voices tremble and our hands shiver? After all, is a population of 12.55 million not enough or worthy of getting their justice.
For remember it is not how big or small your action is, it is all about what it is and for who it is, for as the misfortune descends and the hearts rise in fury, the just will get their justice.
“Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it is about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”
– Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale