Faris Meer wakes up to the sudden rush of the morning sunlight. Winters in Kashmir are depressing. But at least in summer, the sunlight offers occasional distraction, like Prozac or curfews with everyday death count. Meer’s attempts to snooze, are put to defeat by his mother’s calls to come for breakfast. He throws his smelly blanket off, the iodine off his bandages had smeared it. He looks up at the roof of his room, contemplating about his plans for the day. These days, he is contemplating a lot about his plans for the day. You see, he is blinded in his right eye.
Before the summer of blindness began, Meer wouldn’t even know about the idea of planning his day. What would a 17-year-old know about planning each day. Now he has to do only such things, that are not limited by his lack of vision. He used to be a gun player for his neighbourhood team, and winters in his village of Victorypora are full of Army tournaments. These tournaments are publicised on all newspapers in Kashmir, due to the Army’s well-coordinated public relations campaign. So for him and his team, it would be a chance to hit the news. And they often did, with Meer’s fast bowling and pinch-hitting skills winning them a plenty every other winter.
But now, he can’t see the ball properly. But he does bowl, but the pellets had severely hurt his leg. And the neighbourhood team had to take him off his team, only after naming their cricket team, ‘Faris Cricket Club, Village Victorypora’.
Faris had found his way to the kitchen, his room was moved downstairs, so that he didn’t have to climb stairs. And it was also done, to make him accessible to the guests, who would come to visit. Often their conversations going from Zulm to silence, that was only broken by the breaking of kulčas.
Faris’ father, a grim old farm hand, had stopped sighing at the sight of his son. But his mother, would often press her lips, as if to not utter, “wāe khudaye’ (oh God) in front of him. Faris was willing to bear the ogling of his dead eye by his relatives during their visits, or of the power cuts, but not sympathy. It was like somebody was axing on his courage, that took him a year to strengthen. Sympathy and often pity, would often ring of the pellets that had sprayed all over his body.
He had asked for Haerse, last night. He was hopeful of having it in the morning. There was no smell of the grounded and minced meat. He had his salted tea, with the vapors sweating his glass eye. He stood up, and left the room in haste. His father looked towards his mother, and she whispered, “čh osnae na harise wonmut anun”. The father took a deep sigh, as he looked towards the plastic covered fan. As if he was lamenting his fate, his wife’s disappointment and his son’s fate.
Ghulam Jeelani and his best mate Sattar Goor were smoking on the storefront of Umar Jan who was on his morning shift on his family owned provisions store that was attached to his house. Umar was reading the morning headlines off a daily English paper and then translating it.
“Government to offer 1 lakh to those blinded in one eye and 2 lakhs to those blinded in two eyes”
Sattar was annoyed by this headline, “What a crazy woman, she first blinded these innocent kids and now she’s offering them money for each eye as compensation”. Ghulam Jeelani wincing in right eye, “Shouldn’t these one-eyed kids voluntary ask the police to blind them in the second two, it would double the money then,” he looked at Sattar’s face for response who was shaking his head in disgust, “I mean anyway their life has been ruined, wouldn’t that deal make it better?”.
“The government has given a gas agency and a government job to the father of a pellet victim”
“But one thing is for sure, the woman is killing two birds in two stones,” said Sattar, Jeelani wondering what was on Sattar’s mind, “What do you mean?”
“First, she is killing those who oppose the regime, and then to keep her votes, she is giving the money,” Sattar looked over the street, at the Haerse shop, Faris Meer’s father was waiting in a queue.
“Umar Jana, yim čha diwān extra yiman bēl aēčh āsān?” (Umar Jan, does the government offer any extra money to those who had blonde eyes?)
“Nasa, waen čāmow čae cap:ah? (No. Let’s have tea)