Living In A War Prone State

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Indian paramilitary soldiers stop a Kashmiri woman during curfew in Srinagar, Image from Dawn

DISCLAIMER: The story is pieced together from real occurrences from the life of a very dear friend, the instance used is real in nature, but it had been fictionalized to some extent; as is required for the creation of a significant piece of art.

 

I was ten when I saw a bomb blast for the first time. I was a child then, and luckily or unluckily enough my encounter with this sort of violence was pretty intimate. I was in school, in my class, writing my diary (I have had the company of words since childhood) and suddenly I heard a loud bang, followed by the sound of what seemed like a thousand glass windows shattering all at once and the usual decorum of the school being disrupted by hundreds of children screaming in unison.

The first time I witnessed a war, my eagerness to grow up and do something about it rose to its peak.

I sat there scandalized like a breathing, living statue. Blood flowed freely in my veins, but sadness weighed down my heart. My teacher quickly, mechanically got up, without a hint of fear or shock and helped each one of us get out of the building that was shook by the blast. We were made to go to the backside of the school and wait there until some sort of miraculous help came.

I did not cry about this incident as much as I should have. Of course I did cry, dear reader, but it was only because I had lost my favourite coloured eraser, or damaged a shoe in the process of escaping a stampede like situation.  

This incident still remains intact in my heart.

It was after months that I got the details of the terror I had seen so closely. I was told that an abandoned car parked outside of the school gate where unsuspecting students had been playing games inside it, above and under it for weeks had been filled with explosives that day. I couldn’t help but wonder at the possibility of the catastrophe that could have struck us, if we did not have a huge playground, separating our innocence from that horror.

As I grew up, that playground became a sacred spot to me.

Later, in a fresh spirit of protest, I saw people getting out on the roads; some holding candles and some holding placards condemning the day’s episode. But soon, that spirit of protest and anger died down as violence became more and more common in the state. There would be a bomb blast, the government would order troops to pick up innocent people and charge them with the heinous crime and in retaliation, there would be another blast and it would go on and on.

There were still people fighting the repetitive instances of violence, but with measured steps, without any weapons in hand- only graceful words on their lips. Honestly, people armed with weapons looked more vulnerable to me.

It was much later that I realized that my first encounter with a bomb blast came after so many innocent men were convicted for crimes they did not commit, and that it was intended to not harm the school at all, only to bring attention of the authorities which it managed to do. It was a war I did not understand.

Ghalib’s, “Ladte hain aur haath mein talwar bhi nahin,” (Oh God how they fight without even a sword in their hands) became something I decided to live by.

The second time I saw bloodshed, I saw innumerable women unveiling themselves on the street of my homeland in defiance. I could see the fire in their eyes and that was when it spread onto me, that fire and inexplicable strength.

But I was still just a child. I was told that to make a difference, I’d have to leave my homeland that was then stained with blood, to come back armed with the power of knowledge. I couldn’t have compromised with my studies because I really wanted to ‘save’ my home and all my people.

In war, we were all united, you see. All the little differences were wrung out as inaudible complaints.

So, I left my land and went on to wet the soil of another city, which became my home for the next few years. Nobody talked to me about my home. Every time I recalled, a perfect and unimaginable picture was presented to me; a picture of my streets & the people that it had betrayed was nowhere to be found.

Maybe that vision was what living in denial looked like.

I knew I had to return & see it for myself, for my brain was tricking me. I had to return to see what lay behind those images of a utopian land without bloodshed. I had not yet forgotten my first rendezvous with the horrors of war.

When I came back home, it wasn’t long that I was again acquainted with the same horror for the third time. When it happened for the fourth time, dear reader, I couldn’t (read:didn’t) see it at all.

I was physically present there, but what I saw did not hold much account. It did not challenge me to do something about it as the previous encounters had. It did not bring about a burning fire inside my heart threatening to spread across my body. The violence held lesser and lesser value with each of its succeeding attempts in my presence. It did not hurt my eyes anymore. It did not affect my countenance. It had stopped having the same effect on me as it used to have on me as a child.

I could sense the immense pain in the air, and yet after a while, I got immune to it; immune to all the restrictions and shackles that violence brought. To roam freely on your land, to love freely on this land was becoming difficult as more and more people readied themselves to give these small liberties away. Freedom was a luxury now; one that, surprisingly, nobody could afford.

I had managed to find reasons and justifications for the death like calmness of my inaction.

Nothing could be more painful to human mind than to submit. I bore a hell within me with the fire of revolution slowly turning into the inextinguishable and inescapable fires of jahannum.

Yet in all the chaos and dismay, I found my resort. I found words; words that could heal my wounds like no medicine ever could, words that could make flowers blossom instantly on the barren land of my homeland, words that gave me a reason to bear days when I was laden with desires to commit myself to my land’s emancipation but was deprived of enough hope and faith to support it.

So, instead of trying to plant seeds on the land that has become barren with innocent blood, now I plant words. I plant words on walls, on papers, and even on social media. I sit in that very playground and write. I plant words because they are the only weapons readily available to me.

They’re the only weapons I was waiting for all my life. Maybe they are my best instruments of war. And with these words, I will keep practicing my form of rebellion till the time my words flower with such beauty, OR my land consumes me…


 

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