Kashmir to Corona

dal lake modi

Dear Baba,

Since you left us, nothing has much changed except that we could not celebrate Bebo’s birthday last year. I forgot to tell you about the postponement of marriage of your nephew because he was arrested and sent to jail outside Kashmir. Since then, he has been shifted from court to prison to unknown places which we are unable to keep count of. His fiancé’ couldn’t bear the shame of being accused of born with curse. She has migrated to her Aunt’s place so that she could get some space for mourning which we all have become prone to.

You would always say that 5th august is the most auspicious day in our family calendar after Bebo was born thirty years before. With a heavy heart I need to tell you that 5th august 2019 have proved you wrong. On the same day, we lost our identity, our land and our future. I wish you could advise me what to celebrate on this day now? Birthday of Bebo or the loss of his land? In order to convince me, you have to be precise without quoting sermons of Maudodi or poetry of Iqbal. There is a total clampdown and “they” could read our minds now. I do not want to spend the rest of my life at a place they call it a “concentration camp”. I hope you might have come across these camps during your struggle with Maharajas. Modern concentration camps are somewhat different from the past ones in a way that authorities have now started a trade and supply of human organs which they get as a trophy during interrogation processes.

Last night, when television was talking about corona virus that has infected the whole world with seven billion in lockdown; I saw your shadows near the window while I was trying to get some sleep without sedative. There was none around except your shadows and the shadows of people who were running for life near the border of Turkey chased by bombs and bullets. It can give you an idea of the world which has not changed much. Your shadows got mingled with the shadows of those Syrian kids who were running in search of God. Baba, your God is dead. Do not blame me for blasphemy. You do sound typical Mufti to me.

In the middle of the night, I was thinking of you and your days of isolation at a grand house you would call it a ‘Guantanamo bay’. Me and my younger sister would laugh at you and often snub you for being ungrateful to God who provided you bread, butter, shelter and family that included your son and his four members of in-laws. Being daughters, we were always strangers and couldn’t dare to include ourselves in your family. Credit goes to you who would imbibe this feeling of alienisms’ into us. Anyway, I would never get a sense of your inner conflict of losing your old house made of mud and timber. That was just a shell but undoubtedly, it was very warm and cosy. Everybody in your extended family and neighbourhood had moved to well off areas in Srinagar so did, later on, your son. Was it his right or choice to live in a posh area? We would never know. You did never reconcile with this plan of losing your old nest that had according to your account, mud walls woven of love, compassion and simplicity. And, I remember your moist green eyes like crystals in ocean when mention of my mother would take you back to the era you wanted to erase, not because you did not want to remember her but the hardships you both had endured during the partition days of political decisions that changed the course of your life and livelihood. It was incomprehensible to think at that time the essence of your talk when you would advice us to take unanimous decisions no matter it relates to buying land, choosing partner or going abroad, though you took all decisions on your own. You had taught us the importance of consensus when we preferred to live the life of individuals. I feel pained every time I ask myself who was right.

The moment I saw your shadow in my room, I felt your presence and your unique fragrance. I wanted to ask you a question? Had I always left you alone in your illness or distress? Just asking….. Remember, in my early years of graduation, I would always raise objections about your decisions and would try to prove you wrong. That smile or smirk of you kills me now when I re-jig my memory. You, taller than the poplar tree, standing at the gate of the house and saying loudly, “Tell me then when you will do decisions for your kids”. History is repeating at the moment. I am not being told off for doing wrong decisions by my family but the right ones. It makes me laugh.

What is family? Do you know digital world has changed its meaning now? Can you call it a family which lived in mud houses or those who are living in laser-tech kitchens? Family has been shrinking to remote controls or microwaves or Takeaways. Now, corona virus has brought us to our knees and we are being told for social distancing. Had you been alive today, you would have snubbed us for even saying this phrase. Typical ghetto culture of ours.

Why would you always make us to remember sayings of our Prophet (PBUH), “What you do for your parents, expect much more than that from your kids”. You never explained or elaborated it. I wish you could have so that my mind would be at rest which has been wondering in wilderness since I feel your shadows around me. Do dead parents come in shadows to see their estranged children if they feel tormented even if they have reached their own end in the journey of life or it is only me who is thinking of you all the time in my room when you were all alone in a big palatial house?    Corona has forced us to call this world a big concentration camp, not to talk of Kashmir only that has been in lockdown since seven months.  I remember the day you begged me to come to see you when you were on your own in a big mansion. It has started to haunt me. May be, Corona will leave me but your “look of eyes” will kill me soon.

Yours loving daughter

The writer is ex editor BBC and currently a columnist of Independent Urdu UK….




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