Dear Baba,

You will never believe it.  The 8 billion population of the world is put under lockdown due to the spread of a pandemic the corona virus. The blossoms of spring are no more infusing new life into us.  The experts say this spiky shaped virus has mutated from two mammals; one of them is a bat. That same creature which would often hover around us in the cool summer evenings while we were watching the moon rising over the shimmering waters of the Dal Lake. You would immediately huddle us up around your loose pheran, shouting, “aech kariv bund, aech kariv bund, yena yi reckh traivi aech manz, ami seth chi katcha tember pevan” (close your eyes, close your eyes or the bat will throw its pooh in your eyes and make you blind forever)”. We would laugh uncontrollably and make fun of your stupidity. The bat virus is now killing thousands by choking the lungs and arteries of rich and poor, young and old.

We are not the only people in the world under lockdown now. 8 billion are also self-isolating in solidarity with us. The reason of isolation or lockdown or incarceration can be different but every single soul is feeling the pain of our lockdown. You were the one who would often say that the pain of suppression cannot be felt until you are placed into the same situation. Corona might make people to feel our agony. All mosques, temples and houses of worship have to be abandoned.  God has closed all doors of every sacred place. Those who were claiming to destroy the world in a few minutes are counting only bodies and beds and ventilators. Nuclear weapons have become useless and ventilators have become expensive. There is no war in Syria or Afghanistan. Orphans and women are staying calm in their tents near border. A little respite from running from the bullets. They are dreaming to return to their homes which have been turned into rubble.

Had you been around, you might would be dreaming  of achieving freedom at the time when 8 billion people are supporting our fight to end oppressive regime in Kashmir. Dear Baba, the clutches of the oppressor are spikier than the corona virus.

I wanted to remind you about the spring we used to celebrate after harsh winters in the past. Remember April 1972 when we had become politically docile and were left without hope after Bangladesh came into existence at the behest of India. Islamic revolution in Iran and Afghan Jihad in Kabul had lifted our spirits a little but inside we were broken and bruised. Only deceit and betrayal was left in our destiny.

That spring, you stopped teaching us history of Kashmir. Instead you indulged us to rejoice every moment in our lush green back garden which was clean, fresh and life-giving. Those shrill shouts of you are piercing my ears when you would keep calling to get up at the break of light and inhale the cool air coming from Kohi-i-Suleiman amid the cacophony of bird chirping. “You get new lease of life  at the onset of spring. The more you inhale the fresh air, the healthier your lungs can become”. You would repeat this mantra many times until I would get out of my bed and stay in bone chill spring air of April and breathe all oxygen of Chinar trees. My bones would get empty of marrow. I am yet unsure if I got new lease of life or it was one of your tricks to wake me up early.

Baba, your white stripy pigeon that would only leave the window sill of balcony once he sighted you, has now become too fragile and hardly takes any grains. I make sure to feed him, the only trait I inherited from you.   Had it been land or house, this would have also gone to my brother. Maybe feeding pigeons is keeping me close to you so I feel content with this challenge. Most of all, my siblings did not dispute over its inheritance. Since you left, I am taking care of your pigeons including the lazy one we called stripy kotur. For a few days, he is not eating grains. The window sill is full of rice I placed for him. I think he knows that humans are infecting humans all across the globe. He suspects me or maybe he is on social distancing mission too. I am not having any symptoms of virus or anybody at home. My apprehension is this pigeon has become suspicious of our character because many of us do lie about symptoms of the virus or ran away from hospitals. Our neighbour has left hospital during the middle of the night while testing positive.

This is the spring season we had waited for impatiently since last year’s crackdown by Modi Government.  Spring has come, sun is laughing, blossoms are showering, breeze is freshening, daffodils are singing and sky is blue crystal. We are only watching this through closed windows.

Eliot is dead again, nobody is now telling us the cruellest season has come. Wordsworth is no more singing to daffodils, or Mahjoor is no more looking for Gul-o- Bulbul. Their lungs have become choked and breathless. Covid-19 has replicated all plagues of the past.

The Tulip tree touching my bedroom window has hundreds of tulips this year, some blossoms are pushing through the net window to come inside and freshen my soul. I cannot let them in.  What if corona virus is still living on petals? This threat is looming over every mind and soul. So, we are not even looking at blossoms or thinking of spring which you believed gives new life and new hope.

No, there is no hope for mankind now.  Many thousands are dying from virus. Those who are spared are dying of hunger. Those spared by hunger are dying of hate. Those who are spared by hate are dying from anti-viral spray.

I feel very bad in telling you that I am on self isolation drive, cannot talk to anybody, or share my misery or listen to anybody.  The whole world is sleeping. It looks same when we used to close doors and windows in early ninety’s. My only comfort is my window, which goes deep into the neighbour’s kitchen where my tulip tree has made different shapes by its scattered blossoms, I can see them having tea or hot water or talking about running short of supply soon. My skills of rationing have improved. I wish I could share my secrets with my neighbours but security forces are watching us with their eagle eyes. We are facing double lockdown. Nobody has any clue for how long they will keep us incarcerated. And, we never expect any relief even after virus runs without a host.

Many Heads of the nuclear power countries are suffering badly due to this deadly virus. Muslims are still waiting for vaccine from West as usual. What else they can do?

Baba! Which virus is deadly? The virus of oppression that we are suffering since 1947  or the one China has exported to the world that has left every individual now without life, livelihood and basic rights.

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


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