There are some dates in your life that you’ll always remember. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, marriage and the day when the loved ones pass away. Dates have memories embedded in them, in the hours that struck and the minutes that go by. Moments that becomes anecdotes of the stories of life that are shared with friends, family and the children. Moments make up the elements of your lifetime.
I was born in the turbulent times of the 1990s on a snowstorm that had engulfed the bloody streets in a thick sheet of snow. The city had come to standstill in a curfew after the rebels had announced their resolve to fight the Indian Occupation. Unaware of conflicts and occupation though I was born free but caught in checkpoints and concertina wires. Life didn’t seem hard that time. But now that I think of it, it was no life but a survival.
The lexicon of occupied people had slowly found its way in my voice and my speech would sometimes turn rhetorically sentimental. I had no idea what I was saying or what the people were doing. The songs that the women sung after a person got killed, the mournful silence of 15th August and the sloganeering during marches. All I knew was that the occupation is a terrible thing and accepting is unacceptable.
Passing through squares and tiny lanes in the city, I would drink water from taps of memorials. They were written in chaste Urdu with couplets that were incomprehensible for me. And yellow rice called Tehar in Kashmiri would always be on top of it. The birds chuck on this custom believed to bring good and ward-off evil.
My politics were divided into two parts like in Superhero movies. The Mujahideen or Rebels were the Heroes and the troops patrolling the streets from home to school were the bad guys. I don’t know how it had developed in my head. But somehow found its way in my head and become foundations of how I would think later in life.
This not-so-interested-in-politics-attitude continued but it was always below the surface. Some people might find it silly but I used to write love poems about the girl that I crush on in school. How she had become the centre of my life for this quiet boy in school. In between the conversations of my friend (who had lost his father in a massacre) and the thoughts of her, 2008 happened.
2008 the year of the First Intifada basically jolted me from the slumber of 16 years. It was the first awakening for the people in my generation. My politics became more militant, I had become different. I spoke and I screamed in protests. I wrote and sometimes punched my fingers one keyboard to type what I felt in my heart.
Kashmir, became the most powerful emotion that would enrage and engulf in anger. But sometimes turn into lines that became poetry in motion. I had seen guns before but I had always been in fear of them. The fear started drifting away like the silence of the people.
In between 2008 and the second Intifada, I immersed myself into books about Kashmir and heard the people’s history of Kashmir. It had emboldened me further; I had never been so passionate about something before.
On June 11, I was reborn.
Tufail had been killed by Indian Forces in Kashmir. And the new-generation of Kashmir was never to be the same again. It was the great awakening that had come to the youth of Kashmir. And to the elders who witnessed this new-generation fearless in the face of death.
The new-generation of Kashmir had arrived. The under-the-surface-fear became a shield to the fear. They bore the humiliation, the pain, the screaming, the nightmares, the torture and the unbearable stories of their elders. The spirit has become unbreakable for the Occupation. The fear that India ruled upon in Kashmir with their terror since 1990s has gone.
The taxi-driver challenging a CRPF trooper was something imagined by us kids but for it to happen, it was something else. Refusing to comply to the wishes of the troops in camps like buying candies became rampant. A mouthful to uncouth troops who would pass lewd comments on the women-folk was something I always wanted to do. But to actually do it. That night when I closed my eyes, and thought what have I become. I had tears in my eyes and I promised myself that I’ll never bow down to fear.
With each verse of Azaadi, the trinklet of oppression’s chain kept falling from the heart. With every fist that raised to the skies the courage to fight become stronger. With every step the road to freedom became less clear.
I had always felt the things I wrote. But to cry with every sentence that I wrote while compiling the names of the martyrs. The name of Anees, that made my tears flow from my eyes.
The faces of Tufail, Sameer, Wamiq, Inayat, Anees, Fida… are fresh in our memories. We owe our struggle to them. Our lives are indebted to the Almighty, it could’ve been me at Eid-gah or at Lal Chowk where a bullet would pierced my heart or anywhere. It could’ve been me in Anees’ lap not the other-way around.
Tufail may not speak today, but his bloodied clothes that morning would tell us a story forever. So would the graves with the now comprehensible Urdu couplets written on their epitaphs.