One last tablet”: Kashmir’s new talisman for survival
While returning back from renowned SMHS hospital after few hours of little assistance to the injured and their attendants, I thought about visiting a friend of mine who lives in the heart of the Srinagar city in the Downtown area.
Having observed the viciousness of the curfews and the consequent immobility of people from a hairbreadth of distance, I was worried about my friend and his family since it is quiet apparent that valley of Kashmir in general and some areas in particular including the Downtown, are witnessing a massive shortage of essentials due to the incessant curfews. Add to that – there is ‘literally’ and I mean it “literally” no means of communication available to about 90 percent of the people in Kashmir. Besides, the strangulation and unease due to tear gas and pepper shells in the air has not made life any easier; so I needed a glass of water or a few to settle down a bit.
Expectedly but not routine, when I met my friend, both of us behaved weirdly, me looking into his eyes and he looking into mine, I don’t know may be for a minute, but that one minute felt like a lifetime and for that very little moment it looked like as if the whole world had come to a standstill, don’t know why? Was it that we were happy to see each other alive or was it that we were lamenting that we are still alive, because the latter meant no cessation to the live broadcast of unending and inevitable series of pain, violence, suffering, what not.
Once I went inside the house, immediately I could feel an air of despair and depression dissolved everywhere, not only on the faces of all family members but the walls and the windows had a certain grimace that was not different either. The talking suddenly looked the most difficult thing to do and nobody would talk and all they would do is to look at me but that too not for long as if their eyes were carrying the burden of the mountains, their minds the burden of the global thought process and their voices as if they were buried deep into an ocean of sand where even their echoes were lost.
Suddenly I found an excuse to break that eerie silence by asking for a glass of water. My friend got up and brought water for me and till that moment it was only me and the sips of water that could be heard. I could sense the pressure was building up and something had to happen when suddenly we heard few shots in the vicinity which somehow acted as a trigger to my friend’s dad. Unable to hold himself back, he broke down, his bulged eyes were haemorrhaging tears and he would lose his emotions and shout “aes kaetis kaalas che waen ye qayamat wechen, khudayah waen haawtam aekhri qayamat, waen chem ne himmat beyi qahar wechnas, hindustanas peya traeth” (for how long we have to witness this doomsday, O lord reveal upon me the last doomsday, I don’t have any more courage left to face this series of wrath, to hell with India).
Following this outburst, all the family members, my friend, his mom, his sister would hurdle around each other and I don’t know what they were doing, I just don’t know, whether they were consoling each other, or was it that they were wearing the same reflection as that of their dad or was it something beyond my understanding. Tottering and wobbling, all I could say is we have to stay tough, we have to face this very tough time together and most importantly we have to stay patient. I try to pacify recalling lines of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” wherein it says “those too serve the God who remain patient against his will”. In response to this pretentious description of patience and staying strong projected by me, his father would shout at me! “Patience what patience are you talking about? How long do we have to hear the word patience, I am sick of this word patience because patience is all what I have been hearing about. Why is world only patient to see the innocents being killed everywhere? Why is world community only patient to see 40 odd young Kashmiris being killed in cold blood in a span of 9 days? Why is international community only patient to see our future get blinded by the pellets? Why is international community only patient to see 1500 Kashmiris being wounded so badly that most of them might not be even a fifty percent of what they were? When is somebody going to act on behalf of Kashmiris whose voices have been muzzled and basic rights violated just like a tsunami crushes a small island on its way and nobody dares to question the tsunami? Is it because we don’t have any oil or gas or is it that this part of the world is an abandoned purge?”
Having realized that he (friend’s dad) has gone a bit too far with his emotional outburst, with a feel of apology in his eyes (but not in his voice), he put his hand in his right pocket and took out a strip of medicine and showed it to me with an exclaimed expression. “Look son, all I have done so far in these nine awful days is feed on patience,” pointing at a lone tablet in a strip of medicine. “This is patience.” I just could not get what he meant and all I could do is to reflect this uncertainty on my face since I did not have the courage to ask again. He narrated his plight all the way since 8th of July 2016, the day when curfew was enforced in Kashmir, one of the most spine-chilling narrations I have ever heard in my life, a moment when I felt most unfortunate and ofcourse helpless to be part of a race which is fast degrading and losing its values.
My friend’s dad is suffering from prostate abnormality with other subsidiary urine and renal pathologies and all he was left with this one tablet. Whenever he had the attacks of excruciating pain and inflammation which happened on several occasions every single day during the span of these fateful nine days, he would reach out to this single tablet of medicine but forecasting every possibility of escalation of tensions in the valley in the coming days which means every chance of non availability of this medicine, he won’t take the tablet instead programme his mind to have it tomorrow and bear the pain for the day. He would repeat the same routine of not having the tablet for nine straight days, but unfortunately as they say “Tomorrow never dies”.
I finally had the courage to ask him, when there is relaxation in the curfew, which unfortunately happens to be from the late evening approximating 7 pm, why he did not get the medicine from anywhere. He replied they had tried at different pharmacist shops in the neighbourhood, but that there was acute shortage of medicines in the Valley and unfortunately that medicine was a bit rare even under normal situations. Usually they buy this medicine at Soura (some 4-5 kilometres away from their home) where they also seek the medical assistance of a famous nephrologist of the valley, Dr Ghulam Hassan Malik, and buy the medicine in the attached pharmacy shop. He said he cannot take the risk of sending his only son at a time when they see how Indian troops and ofcourse Kashmir police are unleashing a “reign of terror” and “havoc” across whole Kashmir. I had to disappoint him even more by confirming that the clinic and the attached shop too have remained closed ever since the curfew was imposed since I belong to that region.
Finally when I was about to leave since it was getting very late, almost 11:30 pm, and I could not stand there anymore either, he (friend’s dad) followed me till the main gate outside and then spoke in the most promising and optimistic voice perhaps I have ever heard. “Son! How can I outweigh my pain when un-bloomed buds are losing their lives in Kashmir? Is my pain more than a mother who has her young kid in her lap dying? Is my pain more than a sister who has a blinded brother (by pellets) lying in front of her? Is my pain more than a father who is carrying the coffin of his young murdered son on his weak shoulders? No, no, no…. I will live even if I will have to live the rest of my life with this one single tablet and with a hope that someday this tomorrow this very ugly and melancholic tomorrow will die and we will see a morning filled with promises, an evening filled with fragrance and ecstasy and nights filled with dreams and expectations, a tomorrow when this ripple of terror is going to vanish back to the place where it came from.”
This is what excites me about being a Kashmiri, a feeling of hope out of hopelessness, a sense of altruism wherein you forget about your own miseries and exhibit a selfless concern for others, a feeling of resilience when apparently whole world seems to be against you. Kashmir does not need the support of global power houses and international community like, UN, USA, EU, OIC, China etal, but this unconditional altruism and resilience to face the “repression”, a feeling of being a collective force, replacing I, You and Him/her with We. There are tens and thousands of such stories which go unnoticed but this story in particular has a lesson for all of us, no matter how miserable your life is, always be content, for there are so many people in the world who are in much more miserable condition than yours, but stay resilient, stay strong and most importantly stay together and that is what has been seen in Kashmir not only for the last ten days but ever since antiquity. Long live Kashmir!
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C: Rising Kashmir