The Doomed Gravedigger

Munawar Hussain

“Meesum, see! A deluge of ‘likes’ is hitting my facebook post. Hold this cigarette, I will show you a trick to gain more likes.”

“Are you nuts, what if someone would spot me while holding the cigarette?”

“Oh man! Oh man! See I have re-liked my own status. It will re-appear on the timeline of my friends. And whoever is the bonehead who had skipped it the first time will be obliged to like it now.

“Wow! Where did you learn this trick?”‘I am the Einstein of this era’.”

‘I am the Einstein of this era’.”

“The wolves have started howling, anytime soon they will come out in packs. Let us go home. Don’t you remember the last year incident.”

We strode across the steep hillside, laughing, singing and conversing. The sun was about to die in this part of world when we reached our hometown. What I saw was that thousands of people had gathered in the community ground. All of them yelled at the top of their lungs, “Hum kya chahte-Azadi.” Their voice resonated to the heavens. I knew the reason behind it. This kind of burning commotion was always a repercussion of an encounter. Yet another Kashmiri was sent to heavens! We rushed to the site and got to know the identity of the boy martyred. He was my schoolmate. I still remember, in kinder garden, when he was asked about his aim in life and he replied religiously, “Mam! I want to become a doctor.” And a year ago, he was reportedly missing. Later it was confirmed that he had joined the rebellion. I along with my cousin scurried towards the Masjid and brought two shovels to the graveyard.

Well, I forgot to tell you about myself. I am the son of Ali, and he no longer lives. My mother says that my father crossed the border in 90’s and never came back. We are a family of gravediggers. We dig graves and the process of burying, and entombing is entirely our jurisdiction.

I was turning 24. Till now, I had dug up 200 graves. 100 of them were for rebels. So, we started to shovel the soil. Because of its sedimentary nature, it took us an hour to dig a grave of suitable dimensions. Amid emotionally charged atmosphere the body of the rebel was laid peacefully in the womb of the earth. Many religious scholars invoked might of God and requests were made to harbor this red rose in heavens.

I never liked violence. Being an expert gravedigger, I never liked death instead. Every time, the sight of a dead human being, being carried on the shoulders would send tremors through my spine. What cells does a heart of person comprise of who is ready to kill his fellow being? Ready to wipe out the life from the planet. Can that person be kind? Has he ever met the word love? These questions always puzzled me!

The other day brought rains, silence , nd stillness in our town. On afternoon when rain had stopped we went to the meadows to bring foliage for our livestock. It was becoming deadly to ramble even during the daytime. For some months, the rebellion had picked a pace. Hundreds of young, educated people volunteered for the cause.

We were busy in axing the boughs of a giant tree, the sound of suspended laughter made its way to our ears. I ran my eyes towards all the horizons. Six or seven persons were marching towards us. We continued to stuff foliage in our big plastic bags.

With mouth open, wide that a train could have passed through it. I am standing, trying to call my busy cousin to look at the scene. These are rebels! Not a big deal, I have seen many of them. But wait! there are girls among them. Clad with sophisticated ammunition, with an AK-47 hanging on their shoulders. I was flummoxed! One of them, with deep blue eyes, hair braided and she wore the striped jeans.

“Hey Raza bhai, who are these boys cutting branches there.” one of them asked his counterpart.

Raza called us and inquired about our rendezvous around the area.


“I am not your sir.”

“We live down that village. Occasionally, we come here to assemble food for our livestock.”

“Oh! Carry on your work and don’t hang for long time. Finish the work and go to your home.”

I had no interest in conversing with the leader. The girl that was behind him irradiated strength and courage. She enlightened my soul. It was hard to kick my eyes from her face. She magnetized my entirety! I continued to look into her eyes. She signaled me to leave the place. She wore a beautiful yellowish bracelet on her right hand. A heavenly feeling engulfed my heart. I dreamed about our next meet.

A thud, and then the deafening bashing ensued on my door. The clock ticked 3 in the morning. I was awake and stormed to the door.

“Meesum, there is an encounter going on in the adjacent village. Dress up every one is going there.”

I gave my entire body to the pheran, the woolen balaclava and joined my cousin. It was too late. The forces had already decimated rebels and were gearing up to leave the town.

Yet again, in the depth of night, I had to rush to Masjid and bring two shovels from there. I was told to dig seven graves this time; three years back had I dug six graves together. So, I summoned my cousin and we started to dig the soil. While digging, I overheard a conversation between two old persons. One of them said, “These were spotted last day in the meadows and all of them were martyred.” This sentence jolted my entire being.

I said to myself

Is she dead?

How can I bury her?

How could she die?


Munawar Hussain is currently pursuing M.A in journalism in the Kashmir University.


Leave a Comment