Graves of Dolls – An Obituary For Kaneeza

16 March 2017

Little Kaniza,

I am writing your obituary (and it is such a terrible thing to say!). I don’t know the circumstances of your death; I just know that you were 7. Seven. Journalists are still to write longish pieces about the events on the day you died. They will talk about the events of the day you died like just another fight between rebels and the army, and you as a collateral damage. A supporting actor, at best. Or an extra.

I don’t agree.

Heroism is not expected of seven-year-olds, is it? I can only hope that your brother makes a fast recovery from his bullet wound. What brave children are these to carry the scars of history!

I pray that each year daffodils grow wild at your grave.

People will call you martyr and pray for you. We are a vicious lot, some will even blame you for your death.

I detest reducing you to an extra in a life you didn’t even get to live fully? Who lives fully anyway? We survive stuffed with the hopelessness of desire and the ambiguity of ambition. We survive with the guilt of not living fully. But we survive. And, in the least, I would have hoped the same for you. To cherish what you desired. To grow up, and someday, see the world. To grow up and let your parents have the chance to see you grow.

In a normal world, I would not be writing this. But this world is anything but normal. A stray bullet, the media, and the army will call it. The word carries a sneer with it when in stiff statements they explain the “cause of death”. Did you fall to a stray bullet? A loose, vague, erroneously fired shot in the air. Fired erroneously, but fatally.

Let’s not normalise death, even in a conflict zone. Let’s not think that murder by any other name is acceptable. I had the same thing to say for Aamir, the 15-year-old boy, who was killed just a week before. None of this is normal. This is despicable and a tragedy just for us. I grieve for you.

At a shrine in the city, I saw daffodils growing wild around the graves. The daffodils and the apricot blossoms are my favorite part of the spring. Oh, how I wish you could see them, and not lie, like a doll, in a grave.

I am not sure how Kashmir looks from up there with so many wails and wishes. But I am sure that angels will welcome you to a paradise better than this.

I pray that each year daffodils grow wild at your grave.

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