It’s early morning in Srinagar. The Chinar leaves are fluttering in Lal Bazar. The sweepers are busy clearing the leaves from the roads.The chinar is fiery red, as if it’s on fire. The dew drops are on the wild grasses that has crept out of the pavements. The sounds of Bulbul are resonating in the air. Sparrows have become a rare breed, but few are plucking on the Tihar (yellow rice used for auspicious occasions).
While walking through the tiny lanes that lead to ‘Rasool Kandur’ (Rasool the Baker), Charagh Baigh a 14 year old boy, hears a woman cursing the Autumn season,“Yem harud’an tul toas mya, dohayi tchum sadakh pyavan saaf karin, yim kul gasan tchatith thavin”(This Autumn has annoyed me, everyday I have to clean this street, these trees should be felled down).
Charagh Baigh, enters the Kandar’waan (the baker’s shop). There are too many people inside the shop, he is furious. “Bael aas bi, osus bi shangith. Yim pophi yin gow bael izza’h” (Why did I come? I was sleeping, the arrival of aunts is such a pain) He put his one feet inside the shop, and other outside. Sitting on the edge, he hears Afzal Gani the former guerrilla having an animated conversation with Gul Wasta who is a dedicated follower of National Conference.
Afzal: Gul wasta, talsa jaayi traav. (Gul wasta, can I take the bread before you?)
Gul: Kyazi traava’i jaayi, yi tcha myan wya’r (Why should I? It’s my turn)
Afzal: Asi ha tchi, ghari sirf trya be’atch, tuih tchiv khudayas sawaal dyon gharan 10 be’atch (We are only three in the family, by the grace of Allah you are 10 in two families)
Gul: Bi kyah karayi tath? (What shall I do?)
Rasool Kandur smiles, he knows the entertainment has started. His wife giggles while as the rest of the people inside the shop have all their ears towards the conversation. Charagh Baigh has put his head inside the Pheran (a long traditional Kashmiri cloak) to avoid the smoke.
Afzal: Tche kos wya’r gasi. Tche kar MLA’s phone, su ani gyavdaar tchot. Tche hayi, NC’as panun nafar tchuk. (What turn you want? You call the MLA, he will give you bread with Ghee. You are NC’s own man) National Conference is the Biggest Pro Indian Party in Kashmir.
Gul: Tala kar tchopi, tche hayi Dakistan gayokh. Waapas kyazi aakh. (Shut up, you went to Dakistan (abusive form of name for Pakistan) Why did you come back?
Afzal (seethes with anger) Koal’i gadaarov, jahnam taan tchuv tohi haraam. Koali Abul Sheikh’as tchuv winti Security. (You traitors, even the fire of hell is forbidden for you. Sheikh Abdullah still has security over his grave)
Gul (gets red in the face): Tameez saan kar kath. (Talk with manners)
Afzal: Dopmay’na Di mya ve’ar ( I did tell you to give me your turn)
Gul: Ma khaal mya tempar (Don’t raise my temper)
Afzal (grins): Adi tchi kyah karakh? (Oh, what will you do?)
Gul: Be barath jail’as bayi, pati nimath begaari. (I will send you to prison again, and I will make you a Begaar)
Begaar was a form of punishment given to Kashmiri Muslims during the Dogra Period, he was sent out to Mountains or other parts carrying loads. When the person got sick on the way, he was thrown from a gorge)
Afzal: Auzu billahi min-ash-shaitan-ir-rajim (I seek God’s protection from Satan, the accursed)
Gul: (Concentrating on the Rasul Kandur’s son taking out Lavasi a form of bread from the tandoor )Shaytaan tchukh paani. (You are the Satan)
Everybody is waiting for the fight to happen, Charagh Baigh is counting the number of people inside. Calculating when his turn will reach.
Afzal is seething with anger, his face has turned red. Gul Wasta turns his head towards him.
Gul: Doali Kyzi tchuk witchaan, be ha kadai atch. (Why are you staring at me? I will gouge your eyes out.)
Charagh Baigh seeing that it would atleast take an hour, jumps into the conversation
Charagh: Afzal Syab, yim’an kari Allah taalah nesto naabud (Afzal, Allah will destroy their ilk)
Gul Wasta: Nyari gobrah, tchu maaji hyund doadh. (Go away kid, drink your mother’s milk)
Charagh: Maaji pyath ma gas, be ha tchusai kal-kharaab. (Don’t talk about my mother, I am a hothead)
Gul Wasta: (Sarcastically) Awi, tche hayi tchukh, nyar gas Afzal’ni zanaan nish (Oh, you are somebody, go to Afzal’s wife)
Gul Wasta, had got the last of his bread. He was about to leave. When a slap landed on his face, he was dragged by his pheran out of the shop. Afzal couldn’t take anymore. He biffed him, while Gul Wasta’s hands were inside his Phiren. Gul Wasta took up the piece of firewood on the side of the street and banged it on Afzal’s head.
The girls that came from their tuition classes got scared and ran faster. All the people inside the shop came out. Some came to stop the fight and some just looked on for entertainment, since the power cuts had deprived them from Television.
Charagh Baigh, the smartass he was, took the bread inside. And left.
Blood was on both Afzal’s and Gul Wasta’s face.While some people were holding on to both of them, the fight broke off. As the people were leaving.
Gul Wasta: Teli tchus ni Maaji hyund nechuv, yeli ni bi Jail barath. (I am not my Mother’s son, if I didn’t put you in Jail)
Afzal Ganii: Be tchusni Jail’as khochaan. Gas kyah tchui karun. ( I am not scared of the prison, do what you want to do)
After some days of the fight, Afzal Gani was arrested in the night. He was dragged from his bed by the Police with the troops. Charagh Baigh, was beaten up on the streets. His clothes were torn apart. He was beaten black and blue. He was then detained, while his mother and father held on to the Major’s feet to let Charagh go.
Charagh Baigh came two weeks later in an Ambulance. He couldn’t walk straight. The Troops had tortured him. He was given electric shock in his private parts. They had put a chili iron-rod inside his anal cavity. His groin area was put on flames and then the flames were put off with water. He was made to sit on a pyramid like steel structure, rupturing his anal cavity further. Later he was sodomised by the Major throughout the two weeks.
Afzal Gani was killed in an encounter, a fake encounter by the troops. His mutilated body came home. His only son became an orphan, his wife turned mad. His brains were buried at the encounter site, and he came home without his head. His funeral took place midst of Pro-Azadi slogans. A memorial stone with water taps was placed in the Chowk, nearby the Rasool Kandur’s shop. His son every year on Shab-e-Baraat, puts candles on his two graves. One grave of his whole body and another for his head.
Few months later, Charagh Baigh was found hanging in his room. The only son of his aged parents.
Few years later, Gul wasta became the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) of the area.
Afzal’s memorial stone still provides water to the thirsty. The autumn leaves still fall…
Art Work: By Graphic Weave