She, Kashmir and The Epitome of Love

She, Kashmir and The Epitome of Love

Nowsheen Altaf


Sitting in her study, under the dimly lit bulb and the cold feet of winter, the street outside buzzing with the ambulance siren or may be from some VIP’s luxurious car, surrounded by her books, she thinks of the phases, countless, she has lived through. She took a deep sigh.

She would never come to terms with loss. She could never make peace with her demons which came again and again to haunt her with the idea of engraving a beloved, or just the idea of a beloved? Though she found the word “love” very shallow since she saw kids from her class at school confessing their first loves. Perhaps it was a misnomer or so she thought. Today, sitting in front of her study table she envisages, if that was anything ever close to the feeling called love. But anyway, even today, when she contemplates of the two people together, the pair from her class 3rd flocks to her memory, like seriously, class 3rd!!! No wait; those are just the blurred images.

She can never recapitulate the faces from her yesterday, be that the face she had come across a few days, a few months or a few years ago.
In her memory, a faint image of a child running up and down the stairs holds her attention and suddenly that kid, full of life, disappears. It makes her restless. She tries very hard to look for that kid. And suddenly her heart beats so longingly when the blurred images of long dirty boots of soldiers cross her memory. She gets the glimpse of that beautiful “namda” made by her ‘Aba jaan’ under those ugly shoes. she could now see that kid, she could see herself, afraid of the scene that had unfolded around her but standing still behind the door and witnessing everything. She feels the pang in  heart, when, in her same memory, the man she has always adored, her father stands earnestly, with utmost caution in siege of those horrible ‘men in uniform’. Dads are heroes, they are not meant to be visualised as weak. At that moment she hated the feeling of helplessness more than ever. . After all this was conflict. They had come to intrude in her personal world; it was cordon and search operation going on. “Cordon and Search”, though only few understood what it literally meant but most around her learned what it was way before they learned how to pronounce “Abba” or “Ammi”. What better memories she can have, she was no exception, she, the child of conflict born in nineties, in a conflict-torn-beautifully-tragic-valley.

She closes her eyes to get this image away from her head, but a shiver runs down her spine at the sight of a book lying on her table, “Do You Remember Kunan-Poshpora”. How many failed attempts has she made to read it but couldn’t turn the pages beyond prologue and acknowledgement. She was stuck somehow. She believed reading required courage just as writing did and somehow she was weak, too weak to turn the pages and afraid that her heart would give up. This is her history, her and many others who dared to think, when thinking was a revolutionary act. This is what conflict had inflicted on the “Hoors” of her heaven. The “Lal Deds” of her land were abandoned with the torn rags on their bodies and the bruises on their souls which even today gasp for air. The edges of those wounds are yet unhealed and they continue to bleed. These are the living martyrs of her nation, who continue to bleed even after decades.  She felt a strong urge to get herself distracted, so she hides the book with some unorganised notes of illumination, but this illumination, it was not meant to illuminate the darkness of the lives of her people.

Perhaps today she wanted to turn the pages of her past but they were all blurred, perhaps even blank. It was all empty until another horrible image crossed her memory, “the first memory of sobbing”. Children usually cry aloud, but that night she for the first time had silently shed her tears, perhaps she was not afraid at all or perhaps she was. Perhaps the fear of loss was getting a grip over her or perhaps she was growing up. You may think this was the first heartbreak of the first love. No, it was not. For her, love was still the word which carried only hollowness with it. It was the loudspeakers outside reverberating with appeals, appeals for people to come out, shun their privacy, for the so called security forces had left a dead youth on the street outside. Those silently shed tears were in his memory, the one she didn’t know. It was the mayhem of 2008 on the streets of the paradise (a name which was given to my valley when once it was eulogized for its spellbinding aesthetics).

She can now feel the heat radiating from her face. She wants to forget the moment when she was found out and consoled by her dad. Has she not always done the same? Has she not closed her eyes to make the past sound like a myth? In an attempt to forget about many such moments, she had already destroyed many things. In one such attempt, she had ruined her first dairy, it had daily entries of every single day of 2008 uprising, it had everything, toll of dead and the injured, their names and circumstances under which they were killed. That diary could have served as a historical record, it had such recordings. But she wanted to forget. We all want to, don’t we? When it gets enough, When remembering is only more painful.  Today she regrets tearing it apart. It was the witness of 2008, 2009 and 2010 on her behalf, a “Shahid” they call it but now a “shaheed”, a martyr, both to the same cause. It was an attempt by a kid to record the history of her land in her words, but certain things die of their untimely death and her dairy was one of them. She regrets because it was futile, that tearing it apart. She was such a silly girl believing she would forget this way. One never forgets, she realises, it only gets permanently marked in our memory, no matter how much we try to run from it. She concludes that she had always been bad with a memory, that’s why she has always tried to hold on to one. She while going through the random pages of “The Collaborator”, is lost somewhere  else. And her phone comes to life flashing the notification of fresh encounter somewhere in the valley between colonial forces and the armed rebels. Her heart skipped a beat. She held the screen in her gaze but finally managed to whisper a prayer for unknowns and their “Lovers”. As the conflict has casted its spell over everything and perhaps it has also acquainted her with the feeling of love, but it was extreme when someone had accused her of being the victim of unrequited love. She is yet to speak about it, but in her head she is at war with herself. How could anyone make such an opinion? They should have known that all her life she has struggled to remain inaccessible, but only they don’t. Previously, any such accusations had no effect as she did not know love, but today it’s different. She is not at peace. Perhaps today her maniac illusions are on the verge of being destroyed, perhaps today she knows that love might not be merely hollowness, it might be the world, the world within nothingness yet still encompassing fullness. What does love do to a person? Does it make a person loose rationality, logic and everything else? Does it make one fight a universe within, to utter a single word? Does it make the long conversation with everyone around sound very useless? Does it make one fall for the eternal silence? If yes, then there was an eternity within her which had died and in death it had demanded an ethnic funeral from her which she could not afford. She never knew the love but she had seen the lovers bidding heart wrenching farewells to their beloveds in her country. The fire which had raged in her meadows has perhaps engulfed her “Yousuf” too, and that was why her heart tossed inside her chest with restlessness. The paradise has now been perfumed with the fragrance of his blood? The beloved she never knew but loved unknowingly. The beloved, she never knew she would love. The beloved who contributed to her eternal loss and the everlasting treasure. Today, she clearly understands that the dreams of Habba Khatoon were nothing but “Ilhaam”, Ilhaam to see him in his death. Today she has come to terms with all her loss. Today, she understands that losses are permanent and perhaps mesmerizing and maybe, love still is hollow or maybe not. She has so many theories, of love, of hatred, of loss, of justice, of fidelity and what not, but they are all so volatile and so relative. However the silence was beautiful and hence the chosen one. Perhaps because she had always fallen for beauty. This was what conflict had befallen on her, or not, or maybe, this loss was not her, maybe just a manipulation. She falls for pain and loss of others. She is perhaps a sadist who falls for the ruins. She struggles with these tiresome thoughts.  Meanwhile, the loudspeakers outside reverberate with azaan for Isha prayers and she finds herself smiling her most contented smile. Perhaps that was not her but the epitome of courage in her, “She”, the lover and the beloved of Yousuf smiling at his epitaph, the one who breaks in her words.

And still she finds herself in an undeclared and unnamed struggle to find the meaning of love in her conflict torn Valley – Kashmir!

Author is an engineering student at NIT Srinagar and can be reached at nowsheenaltaf8716@gmail.com

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