Zē Lačh tē Zē Aēčh

Scene 1

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. Continue reading “Zē Lačh tē Zē Aēčh”


Amme Qeaz yeli ruush.

There’s this story of my grandfather’s workshop that Baba would recall often.
My grandfather’s workshop was located in Jabgaripur, a small mohalla in the maze of Nowhatta lanes and alleys. Often this woodcarving workshop colleagues (czatboaj) would go to the Mughal gardens. Led by the woste (the chief) that was my grandfather or Abba as my father would call him, they would take a break from the noise of theaps (wood hammer) and the tools that would carve paisleys and chinars on the hard surface of the walnut wood.
My grandfather was best friends with Ghulam Ahmed Sofi, the famed Kashmiri classical singer, who also happened to be wood-carving artisan. On occasions, the popular demand of the chatbojs would be to ask Am Soof as he was lovingly called, to sing a sufiyaan qalaam whenever he would come visit.
So this time, the workshop had decided to go to Shalimar. Like the tradition is with the Kashmiri picnics, the food is the heart of all matter. It’s not hanging out, if there’s no food, it holds true to this day.
Of Abba’s colleagues, his immediate woste was Amme Qaez, Ghulam Ahmad Qazi who is the father of a famous teacher, Shafi Qaez in Nowshera.
As they were going to the Shalimar wearing the Keashur dastar, looking like Budshah’s nobles, Amme Qaez on his way to the Shalimar, lost money from his pocket. Apparently his pyjamas (yazaar) had a hole, and the money had found an escape and fallen somewhere. In those days, the rupee was valued a lot.
One of the reasons was that Kashmris were generally poor, another being that Indian state that governs our economy wasn’t a free market yet.
So for Amme Qaez, the happy day to escape the noise of the karkhaane. To smoke the Hubble-bubble while listening to Amme Suufe, turned out to be a disaster. One of his mates, asked the grumpy Qaez sb, while they were inside the Shalimar, how he was feeling in the lush and magnificent gardens of the Shalimar
” basaan tchum soari duniya dazaan”(the world seems to be on fire for me)
I was thinking about this story the other night. That how something you hold dear, can mean so much. If the heart is happy, everything around us has a meaning. Without the happiness of the heart, the world just seems like a lifeless post-card.

Continue reading “Amme Qeaz yeli ruush.”

The Solitary Chinar

Crimson leaves have been buried under the thick carpet of snow. The leaves have been stripped from the branches of this Chinar, only one around me. Chinar and its solitude. How atrocious yet mildly-soothing-loneliness has affected this Chinar. It’s stem has opened up as if it were to embrace everything it can to fill it with contentment. But nothing is gathered inside.  Continue reading “The Solitary Chinar”

How to become a terrorist in Kashmir

Voices, I hear their voices. I can barely see who has taken me away from my home. This is not where I should be. I can’t remember anything. All I can recall is being hit in the head by a volley of gun-butts and kicks from those heavy jackboots in my stomach. After that everything went dark and blurry. I could hear the faint cries of my wife and pleadings of my mother. The Major who smelled of filthy alcohol wouldn’t listen. I was dragged and thrown into the truck. I can feel the wounds on my face. There’s blood on my face though strangely it doesn’t hurt anymore. It must be the icy cold weather. My hands are trembling. I don’t know where I am.

“Get that motherfucker from the truck” the Major commanded his troops. The troops dragged him by his feet from the truck and threw on the abandoned street of this village. He was unconscious and he was bleeding in his face. They took him inside by his neck like a hunted animal in the forest.

“Sisterfuckers, throw him in the cell and let him rot there until he wakes up.” the Major shouted while he poured whisky from the old bottle into the glasses. He was getting wasted as he indulged in the occasional bantering of Kashmiris. “Fuckers fucking with me, I will fuck their cunts and their mothers cunt.” as he looked over the empty glass, he grabbed the bottle and chugged on until the last drop. Throwing the bottle out of the window, but it only ended up hitting the floor. Breaking into shards of glass.

The men threw him into the cell. There were no definitions to define such a situation. He was a prisoner without a prison, a hostage held with legit documents, kidnapped with a right of the kidnappers to kidnap him. There are no laws in this land, the power is with the man who holds the gun; uniformed or not-uniformed, protected by the state or hired by the state. Find a man, catch him and then do what ever you want to do. Kill, torture or even chop his body parts. The state entitles you to this luxury plus a suitable reward and a possible promotion in the ranks.

The abandoned house which was in the same street as the Old Maharaja’s Palace, was on a high street which would lead to the hills that overlooked this magnificent lake with tiny boats occupied by tourists and troops. The heavily-forested-hills were on all sides of the lake. It was as if taken from the Bierstadt painting of Sierra Nevada, albeit it had a spirit of its own. It was in the city which thrived on a river for the last 5000 years. A remarkable city in the last corner of Central Asia, which got it’s name from the early Buddhist inhabitants as the city of the sun.

The abandoned house is infamous for it is the place where the Army used to torture rebels or civilians (sometimes to the point of death). The torture camp has lush lawns and a hill that overlooked the lake. The Cell is the underground part of this abandoned-house-turned-into-a-torture-camp. It is pitch dark inside the underground portion. There is only a small window that remains shut most of the times. There is hardly any room inside, one cannot even stretch his legs or lay on the ground properly. This is called ‘Hell’ by those who have previously occupied The Cell.

I have never been so scared that I have cried. Maybe after that day when I fell into the dried up well in the farm fields in the night. I was just walking to scare off the dogs that had invaded our field. It was harvesting season and I didn’t want our family to suffer. For that matter anybody’s family to suffer. As I ran after them with a stick, I fell inside the well in the dark. I screamed the whole night, with the howling of the dogs in the moonless night. I cried and cried until my mother who was searching for me heard my screams. She wanted to go and ask for help. But I refused to let her go. I was crying, I wanted her to be there. She stood there the entire night telling me stories. It was strange when Farooq Kak the Muezzin of the Mosque found my mother talking to me. He thought she had gone crazy until he heard me calling his name. Farooq Kak announced on the loudspeaker of the mosque. Soon the entire village volunteered in the mission to take me out as my mother kept reading from the scriptures to seek help from God Almighty. But today is different. There’s no village, I can’t fucking move my legs. Can’t even sleep properly. Haha, I expect a five star treatment from these bastards. Pity me. There’s no mother tonight. I have never missed her so much in life. What did I do to invite a fate like this?

It was morning, the troops had woken up. They took him out from The Cell and made him sit on a broken-walnut-wooden-chair (probably from the previous times). He was surrounded by troops on all sides. Some in plain clothes and some wearing uniforms with black bandannas on head. A officer came forward and he punched him in the face so hard that he fell from the chair onto the floor.

“Motherfucker, you think this is a movie?” (slapping him on the face)
“What did I do, sir?: He was crying like a baby who was deprived of milk
“You fucking did nothing, sister fucker”
“Sir, please I have done nothing”
He was kicked in the gut by the officer. He fell from the chair, bleeding from his mouth.

“Gulzar, tie this bastard with the chair.” shouted the Officer in the room as the other men looked on with pale faces. “Ask this bastard, what is his name.” Gulzar asked him in his native language. He whispered in Gulzar’s ear. “Sir, he says his name is Hilal Ahmad Kawa.”

Hilal was tied with a rope to the chair.Almost lifeless.

Officer: Hilal, I am going to make it quick and easy. If you cooperate, this will be over sooner.
Hilal: (Coughing with tears streaming down his bloodied face) Water. I need water sir
Officer: Only after we finish.
Hilal: Water I am thirsty.
Officer: Are you involved with those terrorist bastards
HIlal: No sir I am not involved with them
Officer: We know about your involvement with Umar and Bilal. So tell us their locations and you’ll be free.
Hilal: I swear on almighty I don’t know any Umar or Bilal, Sir I am innocent
Officer: Hilal, quit fucking me around . It will not work.
Hilal: I swear on my mother’s life. I don’t know anyone of them.
Officer lands fist on his nose, cracking it, the sound echoes in the room. Hilal screams in pain.
Officer: Motherfucker, Tell me where are they, I will leave you. Don’t fuck with me bastard
Hilal: (crying in pain) Sir I don’t know anyone of them. Sir please stop I am innocent. I am only a farmer.
Officer lands another punch on his broken nose. A stream of blood hits the Officer’s face.
Officer: (wiping his face with a white napkin) Motherfucker, I will make your life so miserable that you forget that you are even a living thing.
Hilal keeps screaming in pain, he is crying and trying to rip himself from the ropes. Alas, the ropes are stronger than his wrists. 

“Make this bastard talk” The officer tells his men as he goes by the stairs.

Hilal was taken to a small room, four by six feet, possibly a bathroom, with red marble tiles on the floor and walls coated with plaster of Paris.They stripped him down to his underwear, tied his hands and legs. They took a thick wooden roller and placed it under his knees as he sat on the floor. They told him to put his arms underneath the roller and up, and then they tied his hands above his legs. He was like a human-football. They started kicking him in his guts and his back, anywhere their legs went. They beat him with truncheons. They asked him the same questions as the Officer had done before. Hilal pleaded for mercy but they wouldn’t listen. They put a cloth in his mouth and spread another cloth from a wheat bag over his face. He was laying on the floor facing the ceiling. They poured water into a bucket and then they poured the bucket over his face. The water went inside his nostrils choking him. He screamed for mercy.  He was desperate, he tried moving his hands but the ropes didn’t let him. He tried to move his legs but the ropes didn’t let him. Somebody hit him in the head with the truncheon. Hilal lost conscious. They kept repeating the beating until they got tired.

Hilal started moving his lips. The Officer in the meanwhile had returned. Hilal came back to his senses, the men were saying “Tell him the truth, cooperate.” Hilal wouldn’t say anything. He had lost his voice. He was exhausted from the pain and from all the punishment. The officer patted his cheeks and called him by his name. He wouldn’t recognise who he was, it was all blurry. The officer signalled for Gulzar to come. He brought a small magnet-type telephone box. They attached one red wire to his left earlobe and other to different places, one on his toes, one on his other ear and then on his penis. They ran the current and he screamed in pain. He lost consciousness again.

The men had left the room, Hilal was untied and left there on the floor. Half dead. The light from the small window had gone. There was nobody in the dark room. Except Hilal and the sticks with which he was beaten up. Never would anyone have realised that war of independence would bring animals to this land of tranquility. The life was sucked into thin air with dark clouds in the sky hovering over like demons. Death had come to reside in the valley.

When Hilal came back to his senses again, realising he had urinated and defecated on himself. He wept bitterly and screamed over his helplessness. Gulzar was in the room with him. He held his hands but couldn’t stare into his eyes. He handed over some clothes and gave him a bucket to wash himself with. Hilal tried to stand up, but his legs gave away. He had no strength left in his body. Gulzar made him do some exercises to regain strength. But Gulzar wouldn’t dare look into his eyes.

Gulzar took Hilal into the bathroom outside. Hilal poured bucket of water over his battered body. He looked down on his feet and he saw his man-hood bruised with black colour. He looked over his hands and the wounds on his body. He fell down. And screamed “Oh Almighty, what did I ever do to invite such a fate”.

to be continued…

The Human Shield

Once upon a time in Srinagar the capital of Kashmir. An army camp sprouted up in a neighbourhood. It was in a school which looked like an abandoned house.

The military troops of India used to patrol on the streets everyday and night. Carrying with them the guns that this boy of eight, had seen in movies.
After some time, there used to checking of the neighbourhood houses by these troops. To the disgust of this boy’s mother and grandmother, the troops would walk with mud jackboots on handwoven carpets. Sometime later these troops had stolen milk from the house.

The troops had a habit of making the boys his age work. Like buying cigarettes, chocolates, candies and most importantly Nevla ( a chew tobacco brand)

So once this trooper called on this boy to buy him Nevla. He tried to act as if he didn’t listen. But the troopers voice turned shrill. The boy got scared and he came with his head down. He was commanded to buy two Nevla pockets worth Ten rupees.

This boy disgusted that he would miss first two overs of the cricket match that he was supposed to play in a nearby field. As he walked near the shop, the potato chips and milkybar chocolate started speaking to him. Trying to persuade him to buy them. The boy with his eyes lightened at the prospect of buying milkybar which he only got when his grandfather visited him. He bought the milkybar from the ten rupees the trooper.

He went through a different way to play cricket. Eating the milkybar bite by bite.

As the match finished where he took five wickets which he believed was the result of the milkybar power. He was to go home as the sun had set. He made his way home by climbing over walls of houses so that the trooper won’t see him.

At night when he went to bed. He wondered what the trooper could do to him. Hang him or beat him with soi (nettles) which scared him so much that he started sweating. Or would the trooper kill his entire family. Imagining his family being killed he got horrified.
He went to his mother in the next room and hugged her so tightly. He looked at his younger brother. His younger brother all of five still with a pacifier in his mouth. He started tearing up. He loved him dearly, seeing him in a pool of blood would devastate him. He prayed that night that the troops kill him first, before everyone.

Next morning, he woke to the sounds of bullets being fired from the military camp. He ran to his father, asking him what was going on with a panicky voice.
“The mujahideen are fighting them.”
“Baba, are the mujahideen so brave?”
“Yes they are.”
“Are they like superman or He-Man?”
“First go wash your face.”

This little boy went to wash his face. Thinking are they like superman kicking and punching evil villains. Or are they like the He-man fighting with a sword and fighting skeletors.

He came back to his father. ” So baba, what are they like? He man or Superman?”
“Did you pray?”
“Not yet, first tell me!”
“Go pray first” as the sound of bullets being fired turned into a faint noise.

The little boy prayed as fast as he could.

“So Baba…”
“This battalion is leaving so they were finishing the spare bullets.”
“So there were no Mujahideen?”
“No, have your breakfast now.”
“What is a battalion?”
“They are like a class, so a new class is coming to replace the previous ones.”
“Baba, does that mean no boy from previous class will stay.”

The little boy jumped and pumped his fists like his favourite bowler Wasim Akram.
“Why are you happy?”
“The previous ones were very noisy and didn’t do their homework.”

After few weeks the Mujahideen killed many troops from the new battalion in the neighbourhood. The little boy was dragged from his home by the Troops. He was made into a human shield to flush out militants from the house nearby.

The little boy cried and cried. Pleading for help and asking for mercy. ” I will give you the ten rupees back. Take my money pot. Take all of it. Please leave me.”

As he entered the house alone. A mujahid who seemed like 17 years old held him and hugged him. He was taken upstairs to the 15 other mujahideen were holed up.

“Little brother, don’t worry Allah will keep you safe.”
The boy unassured of his safety felt unmoved. He kept crying, the young mujahid gave him chocolates. “I hate them, keep them away.”

The boy kept quiet as the mujahideen prayed and the young mujahid kept guard. The boy too joined the prayers.

The troopers in the meanwhile had sprayed gun-powder on the entire house.

Soon, the house was in flames. And nobody survived. The entire neighbourhood was engulfed in fire. All the houses burnt to ashes.

They were no supermen to the might of the monsters and villains. And the boy’s prayers were answered.