(By Irfan Ahmad Mir) January 16:
I was born in a small village located on the outskirts of Anantnag town in early nineties. Ours was a mud and brick house amidst elegant and lofty poplar trees. A brook passed beside our house. We had to cross a culvert to get to the other side of the brook. On the other side were sprawled a few granaries where we and our neighbors stored grains for harsh winter.
By the time I was ten, I’d get up early in the morning, sit by the kitchen window and wait for my uncle to return from his routine morning walk. He used to fetch lawas (round loaves of bread), on
his return, from the local baker.
One morning while I was looking drearily through the poplar trees, I saw my uncle near a granary store being confronted by army men. After a brief conversation, one of them snatched bread from his hand and the other one slapped him all of a sudden. I raised an alarm. By the time my family and a few elders from the village could reach the spot, he was being kicked and pummeled by half a dozen troops from every side.
Youths would prefer to stay at home on such occasions for the fear of being thrashed by the troops. Blood had started oozing through my uncle’s mouth and they would not let him go in spite of interminable pleadings from the people.
I had tucked to the hem of my grandfather’s pheran— a closed cloak Kashmir people wear— who pleaded the army men to let his son go. He sat down on ground, brought down his skull cap which is perceived as honor in the Kashmir culture, and wept helplessly like a child. I had never seen him weeping before. I wept too.
Just then an elderly woman, her face flushing with anger, came out from a neighborhood house. She was coming towards the gathering near the granary. She picked up a long wooden pole which was lying in her way and hitting with it on the ground near a trooper, who took a few steps back, cried at the top of her voice in an amalgam of Urdu and Kaeshur: “He is my son and you can’t kill him like this. You can’t snatch him from me.”
She lifted the pole again and hit with it on the ground a few times, repeating each time: “He is my son.” The trooper who had held my uncle by his collar released his grip. Free from the ruthless clutches of army, my uncle walked up to the brook and splashed water onto his face. He looked drawn, his face inscrutable. The troopers left, trooping away to the nearby mini-market, Mirbazar.
The woman broke down and wept bitterly. My grandfather went up to her and consoled her. He thanked her profusely. When I look back to the incident, I wonder what made the woman come out of the four walls of her haven like home. What made her think that she could rescue my uncle from the troopers who were infamous for their crimes against women? It always puzzled me. It still does.
In the following days, I often thought about the conversation between my uncle and the army men. What could have been asked? What sort of replies from my uncle could have angered the troops? We, children were never told about it and living in Kashmir, we had learnt not to ask.
Irfan Ahmad Mir is studying English Literature at Aligarh Muslim University.
(Courtesy: Kashmir Dispatch)