Often in life, when one has kids, they plant a thousand wishes, dreams and aspirations for them- the kind of life they’d want them to have, the kind of clothes they’d like to see them in, the kind of the person they envision them to be and numerous other colours of an ideal life. I was blessed too with the opportunity to be a father few years back, but sitting back in silence, I question sometimes if it was really that fortunate?… In a land of unending uncertainties and suffering, do I stand as someone blessed or as a condemned sinner for having dragged someone to this world, regardless of his will.

Born in what is called the golden era of Bollywood in Kashmir, my childhood in the 80s started as a surreal tale in the valleys of Kashmir. But as fate would have it, the roads soon turned into rivers of blood, the songs we played on our radio sets soon translated into elegies for deceased, our joyful shouts in the streets were soon drowned by the wailing of widows, Kashmir painted a grim contrast as I, including my peers, resisted growing up in those nights resounding gunshots and encounters. I now remember those dark nights and days filled with nothing but fear and tears.

Many years down the line, my heart still skips a beat whenever I see my children watching the news now. They often ask me, why and how does the torment spread in Kashmir like wildfire. This question used to often render me speechless and captivate my thoughts even as a child and it still leaves me speechless with shivers running down my spine. I still at times, keep a brave face on and tell my kids to not fear, switching channels on the screen; pretending everything is perfect in the land they live in. However, deep down, the child in me still fears losing them to reality.

For how long can I lie to myself and them? For how long can I prevent the fundamentalist or extremist ideological influences from affecting their pure souls? My children have an unbound access to news channels, internet and social networks. They are the next generation well-informed people with a rational thinking process. They have their own set of questions pertaining to the history and future of Kashmir and Kashmiris. For how long can I keep defending the sad realities of our life?

When I go out to earn a living for them, I have a persistent doubt if I would be fortunate enough to return home unharmed, if I would see my family, if I would be able to embrace them once again. Today I have no reason to hide that I still live all those traumas that I witnessed in my formative years. These are the wounds I have secretly hidden from myself and my family for very long under the garb of education, prosperity and future.

Although I have always been a man to continue believing in hope and future, there are moments like these when my hidden vulnerabilities resurface and I cannot help but recall Agha Shahid Ali’s poem, Kashmir is a country without a post office. I resonate with this every single time, when despite being born here, I am forced to feel I don’t belong here. Every single time while holding the tender hands of my children, I am forced to take sides, I invariably look into the sense of loss and bewilderment in my children’s eyes. What future do I promise them in a place where the future of their father remains sadly debatable.

I do not want them to suffer the fate, I did. I don’t want them to see dead bodies sprawling across their green meadows. I don’t want them to get locked in their secret bubbles and not have a chance to bloom in life. I don’t want them to grow up into hypocritical fathers that lie blatantly to their children.

This is a cry from a father, maybe to all those who share the same trouble as I, or maybe to thousands of those unborn children who are at the brink of slipping into a void of oblivion and uncertainty. Please do not arrive at our doorsteps, And for the parents who perhaps have eternally sinned by supplying the bodies that eventually burn, should we all sometime connect together and look for ways how to prevent those we have immensely and deeply loved?

Dr Adil Malik is a Social activist and Public Servant Serving as Govt employee in health and medical education department of J&K


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