Won’t the soil suffocate you, my son?

Benish Meraj

  Searching amidst the best of attire, she found the warmest pheran (woollen robe). She piled his every belonging and took one, just one. The mothers living under oppression knows how to bury the pain deep in their chests, they know how to bury their beloved, they know how to bury their henna laden dreams, and they know how to sleep peacefully after laying their sons in dark beneath. They know how to gulp this pain.

Fahad’s mother neither wept nor screamed, in fact, she didn’t wail his son. She stood still and nurtured the promise of his son, “I will come to you, mouji! Wednesday I will come to meet you”

“Is this the Wednesday he promised?” “Has Fahad come along all these?” she murmured while looking at thousands of mourners. Fahad left pheran back home not to come again to wear it. She knows her son has to sleep under warm soil now, spring, summer, autumn, and harsh winters. The cold won’t trouble him and the Wednesday he promised to take back his pheran will never come.

With graciously covered Quran in our arms held tight to our chests, like toddlers, we crossed these narrow, dark alleys together. We attended the same classes, we laughed together on the lame jokes made by Moulvi Sahab and many times we were punished together. On Eid we went to the same places, same swings, similar joys. Puberty hit us and we couldn’t see each other every day even if we did, we no more could be same reckless children who we were. But then the pain by Olive Uniform united us again not once but several times. We protested together, moved in protests with the same pace, chanted same slogans with relatable pain. One Eid when we woke up not to the giggling of kids but the barking of Indian dogs, we were raged together. That day putting on the whitest of all dresses I too wished a bullet to hit me. Mine was dismissed but his sustained in a way. Just a few months back, in midst of laughter and fragrance of henna in a mehendiraat when I teased him and he turned his back to the laughter of ladies. Left me there with an untold story of not being one among us anymore, for he had already road mapped his eternal peace. His stare at the windowpane might have told me that the pain has outweighed the aura of happiness or whatsoever around but I was too obnoxious to realize that.

I should have sensed, that the faded graffiti on the entrance of my alley is to be freshly stained again. I should have seen his restlessness and succumbed thoughts. The autumn breeze was shaking trees and scattering leaves. It emptied branches less and homes more. The morning started with mother panicked, repetitively enquiring about gunshots. Though this part of Kashmir was once accustomed to ambush, crackdown and grenade blasts and this choked alley still with diminished graffity pproclaim the never-ending struggle and victory of ‘Hizb’. Three decades of earlier pain left everyone with newer wounds today.

I took a promise from my beloved, who took one from me “you won’t join any protest!”

Middle of the protest and I find him! He seems busy managing crowd. I hide my face and he too hides later. In oppression, such promises of love are not meant to keep. For collective pains and sacrifices, when does individual love sustain and why has it to remain?

People flocked every alley, these clustered men not sure of Fahad being martyred, and gossiping legitimacy of news were already lamenting his loss. The lawn, the verandah of his house was flooded by wailing women, singing songs of his courage they professed him to be a paragon of the old city. Maasi and phuphi were already beating their chests and calling fahad back home. “Fahad wala ghareh czear ha goi, gindinni chukha gommut?” (come home fahad, are you out to play?) Choked his youngest aunt.

Such cruel and coward is our oppressor that they don’t declare our men dead after killing them. It took police control room six hours to declare Fahad dead. His elder brother with broken knees was taken to identify him, he did! He knew him to be Fahad. Fahad had grown a bit more adult, his bullet ridden chest had broadened a bit, last time when he hugged him he was different. But it was him, his face explicated peace but the hands he had seen on a keyboard, helping their grandfather were nothing but blood and flesh. His brother would have pierced his own chest, slashed open his heart in two, split it again, he would have screamed his lungs out, cried and fell on his brother’s bulleted head. But this is Indian occupation and we need permission to mourn. He was sent back tight lipped, telling dead body couldn’t be identified. People hurled away after this news but his brother mourned without mourning. Later in the evening, after directions from the police control room, Fahad was declared dead.

I reached outer lane not knowing Fahad’s dead body has reached when two children anxiously told me “fahad has left, walk fast” one of them hurriedly told other “Fahad draav hupyair” (Fahad has left from other side). A child probably doesn’t know of the dead being lifted, carried and buried. They babbled of him, as though he himself would accompany them and walk around.

With this news, people thronged from different districts and reached Srinagar to offer namaz-e-jinazah but they were welcomed with pellets, tear gas shells and pepper gas. Amidst smoke Fahad’s body reached home around 4 pm, his friends chased ambulance the way they would have chased him playing in the playground. Some of his friends waited with rose petals, some women with almonds. Fahad reached his home loudspeakers reverberating with slogans of Azadi. His grandmother greeted him; she asked him several times,

“Fahad could your tiny hands hold a gun? Tell me you played with it?”

In this Karbala, everyone beating chest cried and ousted pain out but his father was conversing to him calmly. He held his face for one last time and talked to him about their shared struggles. Who else than a son can reverberate on father’s loss thus Fahad obediently listened to his father and listened till his burial.

His mother was running after the funeral, singing a lullaby for him, chanting songs for her beloved. The place of his burial was far but she might have prayed to run as long as her life. She gazed her son and the sun that was about to set. The green, black flags covered the sky and the last rays of sun kissed Fahad. To reach Eidgah for burial the funeral marched from the old city, smaller window panes held women who welcomed funeral with almonds and candies.

To pour out anger I too answered every slogan against India “ bhooka nanga hindustan, raj kare ga pakistan” and slogans like “hum Pakistani hai, pakistan hamara hai”. We kashmiri have limited ways to cure our wounds and that’s exactly how sometimes we resist against India, superficially loving their enemy and labelling oneself as Pakistani soothes one temporarily.

After 2 hours the funeral waited at Rajouri Kadal 2.5 km from Maazar-e-Shohada for other two martyrs. With Fahad, the LeT district Commander Srinagar was martyred and a civilian who was the son of the owner of the house (where Fahad and his commander had taken shelter) was beaten to death.

Fahad’s dead body waited for his commander like friends wait for each other, before going to college or two grooms await each other before taking their brides home. That union pooled three funerals. To show solidarity to each other People from one funeral raised their hands and people from other hoisted their index fingers in air. The promise to live and die together was accomplished. Maybe Fahad anxiously awaited his commander while he was cradled and departed from his home but for months they had lived together leaving this wait more painful. People were no more shouting or sloganeering, the screams, the howls and hoots encompassed the chowk before all three left together.

“Fahad! Fahad! why don’t you answer”

“Fahad, tum mujse teen saal chote hou (you are three years younger to me)”

“Fahad, don’t you see your father is dead already?”

“Fahad, get up, please get up fahad”

His cousin sister while running after his funeral lamented and cried.

Thousands of people participated in joint funeral prayers of two militants and a civilian who was killed in Fateh Kadal area of Downtown Srinagar on Wednesday. Photo Bilal Bahadur

The dusk fell and funeral reached Eidgah where thousands were already waiting to have the last glimpse of Fahad and others. His mother followed him for three long hours and at last thwarted at Eidgah Gate, her bare feet full of mud were oozing blood from scratches but she seemed not to care and sang lullabies to Fahad.

A father with a lean body, eyes sunken in face withholding every tear tells enough of the courageous men this land has given birth to. The courage of an old father to inhume his young son with shivering hands stand witness to braveness of this breed. He caressed his face for one last time.

He buried his jaanan asking (cze ma gasei atei dh’am?) “won’t the soil suffocate you?

After the funeral, the mourners were pelleted, shelled with tear and pepper gas. India is a supreme power aiming to secure a position in United Nation Security Council and recently voted for United Nation Human Rights Council and claims to be the world’s largest democracy but fears our dead and attacks our dead bodies.

This was just another day in kashmir!


Benish Meraj is a law student law based in Kashmir.

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