I was stealing glances on my wristwatch. Outside my friends were waiting. They were out with Kites and spools. I could figure out signals made in many codes by my friend’s; urging me to emerge. But my father was staying at home and for me to go out with friends seemed impossible and at the same time resisting the temptation of staying back was irresistible.
Somehow I managed to go out.
My friend’s taunted me for extra “Parental watch”. One can get away from the mother but not father. I sneaked out of the gate like a drenched mouse, with the fear of being caught by a cat.
Clear blue sky. White shrouded clouds reclining on mountain heads like a white mushroom. Warm breeze stumbled. Birds hopping and chirping under endless sky blue sky. The day had descended into sudden silence and suddenly turned cold when someone has hanged somewhere far away. We ran excitedly on streets, the empty deserted streets.
Just to ward off boredom some people were into gossip groups, some into ‘expert panels’, some into carom and some into cricket. Indian forces were already there, standing like black Robots. Doing what they have been doing since years; oppressing and ‘disciplining masses.’
Few elderly people were discussing politics in lanes and by lanes and what had happened what might have been the hangman’s thoughts, and how the state is a collective hangman for them since decades and how hangmen have changed attires. There are many hangmen’s’; visible, invisible, within and outside.
The people were like cold, silent, still corpse of the hanged body. Their eyes rolled out and popping red, so does their tongues stifled under their own teeth but all under black noose of tyranny.
The wind wasn’t in our favour, so we delayed game of kite flying for a while. As kids, we don’t understand tragedies. We don’t understand loss. We
don’t understand gains. We don’t understand what it means to understand.
All we understand is moments.
I approached towards a graveyard accompanied by a small garden. I was about to retread when my eyeballs fell on someone that made my heart beats race, chasing each other like Indian forces do to us.
My hands felt cold and my throat turned dry. I went there with my kite and spool, unaware about my friends. I approached towards two persons, perhaps now my sight caught the third person who is a lady. Suddenly I ceased to be a kid. The child of conflict zone was emerging out of me.
There was a man. He was short, wearing black and white kurta-pyjama. I could see a pen in his hand. He was busy writing something. He appeared nonchalant and gave an impression of dignity. He spoke in clear, polite voice.
“Oh, Khalid, my dear, how have you been? Long-time no see. What are you up to these days?” I wondered how he knew me. I wondered really! He was Afzal Guru, the kid beside him, who was preparing the kite from a page of the newspaper which carried his father’s news of being a “terrorist and to be hanged.” And the lady who was immersed in her thoughts was Tabassum, as she was there; the inverse of her name.
“Afzal Mr De Mock Crazy has presented you’re so many contradictory pictures. Which one am I meeting or shall I believe in?” He throws back his head and laughs at that.
There is only one Afzal that is me. After a moment of silence, I blurted out “Who is that Afzal, the one who is ‘Terrorist’, the one who attacked the collective conscience of a Democratic Nation. He replied in a calm voice; “Afzal is young, enthusiastic, intelligent, idealistic young man of Kashmir who was influenced by the political climate during 1990’s and crossed to Line of control (LOC). But I got disillusioned and came back and tried to have a normal life but was never allowed. The sons of Mr De Mock Crazy picked me up and tortured pulp out of me. Look at my scars.They are still fresh. I was electrocuted, frozen in cold water, dipped in petrol, smoked with chillies, you name it.”
I was keenly watching how his son and wife were also willing to join the conversation and want to speak their heart out but they preferred silence. Afzal said “I wasn’t given the lawyer, no fair trial and finally Mr Democrats gave their verdict directly on no 28” There was a change is his expressions, he seemed angry. Nobody listened to me, or what I had to go through in life. Democracy doesn’t mean all this, does it? His eyes now turning red and welled up, he ruffled the hair of his son.
“I have even got the certificate as a surrendered militant. I began a new life,” he said seeming relieved after pouring out his heart. Afzal recalled how he couldn’t become a doctor in my new life but became the dealer of medicines and surgical instruments. He sighed at his incomplete dream. “I bought a scooter and soon got married. These were the beautiful days of my life”, he said. But soon my happy days were shattered as if an attack happened somewhere the situation worsened for me every-time.
The institutions of law and order would let me free only if we paid a huge bribe. They threatened us to implicate false case. I was given electric shocks in private parts. I had to pay one lakh rupee at one detention centre. She sold her jewellery and my scooter to release me, but I was physical, mentally and financially broken. I couldn’t leave the house because my body was in a bad position. Afzal recalled with horror. I had to take medical treatment to regain potency. He recalls how he was made to confess the attacks were his handiwork else his family will be killed. They set brother against brother, neighbour
against neighbour. But I don’t grieve.
He looks at his wife who shyly, recalls the days when Ghalib was in her womb and how Afzal would ask her to sit next to him in the kitchen with a ladle in one hand and a book in the other from which he would read out stories for me while he cooked. We all smiled and tears rolled down her cheeks, but now every day I call him, he never replies. I spread table cloth for him at every dinner but he never…..and sobbed.
While Ghalib, all the while was busy trying to fly his kite on the banks of the river. Afzal said, “If there is no justice, there is no peace”. They have the
freedom to make “pieces of peace”.
I asked him “why are you worried, you are free now”. Wrinkles appeared on his face and forehead; he replied: “a lot of Kashmiris’ are languishing in jails without jails without lawyers, without any right and any trial”. I don’t want my son’s and brothers of the country to grow up on these streets, which are filled with the clamour of violence. I want them to grow and play far from the tumult of streets, away from its heady slogans, and explosives whoosh and clatter of tear-gas and its pungent smell. They have grown among clouds of smokes, I wish for them to grow in the fragrance of flowers. I want them to listen to the chirping of birds rather than gunshots. I wanted this pen in their hands and not bullets.
“This pen can draw a line, can the bullet”?
He said while finishing his letter and called his son to have his pen. I wish him to complete my incomplete dream, I wish he becomes the doctor and above all learn to be a human being and grow with dignity, self-respect and without fear” Afzal said.
“I will live longer than hangman. I am resurrected in the history of freedom struggle and in the hearts of generations”. Soon a cold waft wind passed through my hair and Afzal vanished. He vanished to live in future generations, in future collective memories, he vanished to live forever. I knew he was thrown like a piece of meat to the gladiators, and everyone was notching and taking its own share.
I mumbled, “Afzal Zinda Hai.”
But what about those who raised slogans of, “Desh Abhi sharminda hai, Afzal Abhi Zinda hai.’’
Will their country continue to be an ashamed nation? Or a shameless nation?
Will they continue to swallow murders committed in their name?
Sun had descended behind jagged snow-clad mountains. There were scarlet’s on the western horizon in the sky and my grandparents say they appear only when someone is murdered.
My heart panicked and walloped.
What was this all?
Wasn’t he hanged in the morning?
Was it a dream?
No one had called me. My friends had long rested in graves. So does my father, so mother, so everyone who was the companion of the street. There was no one except, as usual, since decades after decades:
A lonely looking Indian soldier on the silent street!
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