Love in turmoil

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Many young men getting killed on streets and gunfights in Kashmir are somebody’s beloveds. When a Budgam girl lost her beloved during 2016 uprising, she found it hard to come to terms with her bullet-torn love story.

By Bilal Handoo

During that summer upheaval, a gawky blacksmith of our hamlet had become the default surgeon of our pelleted boys. But we—the pelleted girls—had our own obvious reasons to skip that aid.

We sat in those dark rooms lit by candles and tried to be our own patients, our own surgeons. But some pellets were too stubborn to set us free. They’re still embedded deep in us. And scars they created are perhaps hard to heal.

In those war times with snapped cellular services, I had momentarily lost touch with him. It made me tense. I had witnessed my neighbouring girl’s devastation after her fiancé became one of those summer martyrs. ‘What if, mine too!’ The very thought would leave me numb.

I had last seen him when he paid me a surprise visit. It was two days before the rebel’s fall. He was wearing that smiling face when he said, “I am now ready to take you home now!”

“So, you’ve a job now?”

“Yes, you bet!”

We were in love for last eight years. And throughout, we longed for the moment when he would get a job once done with studies. But we never knew that our cherished moment would come amid storm.

Time passed. Defiance continued. Crackdown intensified. And then, one day, came the news: “Something hit his heart!”

“His?”

“Amanat’s!”

For the first time, I didn’t want to believe in that name. I tried to tell myself, “that look, it can’t be your Amanat—your safe-keeper of love.” But then, the storm had struck. They had bumped off my love!

So, yes, I lost him in the storm — that had already consumed many Amanats of Vale that summer.

‘How does one truly feel over the passage of the beloved?’ I always wondered. And now, when I was wearing those destitute shoes, I felt a part of me gone — rather, ripped off.

I turned silent, for days to come. No consoling worked. No cheer up trick ticked. Sometimes in my silent mourning, I would turn mad, questioning this ritualistic routine of consoling and comforting each other in the face of the constant slaying of our beloveds.

When those women were doing the same to me, I wanted to shout at them, “Shut this misery up! Can’t we’ve a better send-off to our beloved martyrs than these tearful eyes?!”

But despite feeling it—and feeling it quite bad, I couldn’t even utter a single word. Perhaps, now, the loss was too personal.

Weeks later when they spotted me hymning elegies in praise of my beloved in my room, they thought me otherwise. I had perhaps become something else now. But, who? I could never figure out. And amid bloodbath, even my family never bothered to ask — until something else happened.

Some 40 days after, a neighbourhood was hosting a humble marriage party. I was there like a living corpse with my mother who somehow wanted to cheer me up. Folksongs made it a jolly gathering amid the unleashed grief. Everything was going quite ritualistic—until, I became the centre of amusement, if not attraction.

I don’t know how those elegies in praise of fallen began coming out of my mouth. I was quite shrill—in fact, shrill enough, to silence the routine rituals. Hearing me singing, the young men and women demanded emancipation from wedding altars.

And then some days later, I was walking through the market opened momentarily on the resistance leadership’s call. Despite everything being the same—the streets, the shops, the shoppers, the signs—something was missing. What was it? I could never know. But yes, something never felt the same again. I was feeling that way, despite making uneasy peace with my loss.

I knew I wasn’t alone feeling that way. In our neighbourhood when they shot dead that gentleman grocer on his head, his wife and two toddlers were doomed forever. I saw his daughter putting up a resolute face.

“My Papa is with angels now!” I heard her say and hugged her tight.

We both cried in each other’s arms, like tormented souls and consoled each other. That kid’s mature outlook was heartening. It motivated me to fake some normalcy. But then, at times, my woebegone heart would fail me.

It failed me again that day in a market when I saw shades of my departed beloved in that cab driver. I tried to stop him, raising both my hand and voice, “Am’maaanat!” But he swiftly drove away, leaving me in tears, all over again.

My resurrected grief assembled passersby around me. They were familiar to me, and perhaps, to my agony, too. They sympathised, flashing those looks of pity. I tried to tell them, “I just saw him! It was him! Why don’t you go and chase him, and plead him to return for me! For Godsake, go!”

But they wouldn’t budge.

“Go home, kooriey!” they said with those long faces.

“Why are you giving me these pity looks?” I lost it, and shouted at them. “I don’t need your sympathy!”

“Go home.”

Perhaps they were right. I should’ve returned to my home, without further making exhibition of my grief.

Walking back, I realised, that the loss stays personal at the end. Now, I don’t pour my heart to anyone.

And it’s because of my silent torment that he visits me—quite often—in my dreams now.

Last night, he was consoling me, telling me, again “Doud chu tchalun!” (We must endure the pain.)

I spotted no hole—the one they bored on his love-brimmed heart with a bullet. He was wearing his calm face and sounding quite reassuring. But I told him,

“Be kas tirieuthas?” (For whom you left me for?)

“Khudayas,” he smiled. (To God.)

“Suon ti cha Khudayi?” (Do we also have God!)

“Tath cha kah shakh!” (Indeed.)

“Adi, tchi wunthas na, wyen kotah sitam, wyen kotah zulm?” (Didn’t you tell him, how much torment and oppression we still have to brave?)

“Nothing lasts forever; not even zulm!”

He then held my hand and took me for a stroll around a heavenly place. He showed me some familiar faces waiting for those who like me are suffering for them in this world.

“They all are waiting for them, like I am for you!” my Amanat told me. “But till we’ve our heavenly rendezvous, ‘Doud tchu Chaalun’!”

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