Azadpur’s Children

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By: Saima Rashid

Kashmir, 2030…

“We will get it, today or tomorrow. Azadi is our birthright and we shall have it.”

These lines are engraved on a wall of Sariya’s school. She remembers her mother talking about the graffiti on the walls of her school, which would read: “Enter to learn, leave to serve.”

It is winter in Azadpur and people mostly stay indoors. Icy winds are sending chills everywhere. Snow is drizzling in a rush. Bukharis and Hamams are blazing. Schools are closed down for a vacation. But times are different now. Children no more take tuitions. They do all the prescribed homework themselves. Parents also don’t bother to help them. Kashmir’s future has learned to stay self-dependent, self-sufficient.

Sariya and Sayir are the children of the famous household of Kashmir—Camariya. They are both primary school graders.

Sariya begins to work on her assignments early unlike her brother who is always lost counting the mortality rate in Azadpur.

“You should do this assignment at the outset of vacations,” Sariya suggests her brother, still counting. “You never know, the figures may increase by then.”

Sariya looks back into her syllabus and takes out her English poetry book, titled ‘The fear of Separation’. She randomly flips pages, but stops at page no. 15 to read a poem: Come now—or, come in a moment…  but do come… Let thou worship thy God back home only… I will ask for forgiveness on thy behalf… But let’s make a Masjid back home only…

She takes out her notebook and pencil to paraphrase it:

“The poet in these lines is trying to be the voice of a mother who is awaiting her son for long. She pleads her son to make home a place for worship. She asks him not to go out for fear of getting disappeared. Moreover, she takes the responsibility to ask forgiveness from God for not letting her son go out to Masjid for prayers.”

Sariya flips to another page and reads the next couplet: I won’t let you go in to the dark… Nor you would see the daylight… Let my embrace be your world… And my heart your Universe…

Thus, begins another paraphrasing: “The poet in these lines is showing the resistance of a mother who is not letting her son to go out. She wants him to be home, always. To compensate with his worldly pleasures, she tells him to consider her embrace as his world and her heart, his universe.”

Before she can read further, her mother calls her up for another round of morning tea. Sayir is asked to spread Dastarkhawn in Hamam—the task, which finally make him to lose count of the mortality rate. He gets up and does as told, albeit with a heavy heart.

Sariya brings hot thermo flask, bread, butter and cups on the Dastarkhawn. All of them sit down and say some verses from the Holy Quran before touching the cups. Amid sips of tea, their father begins his customary inspection of their assignments.

Sariya speaks first.

“Dad,” she says enthusiastically, “I started my day with English poetry. I am almost done paraphrasing two pages.”

“That’s like my girl. And, what about you, Mr. Calculator?” the father asks his son still lost in the count.

“Dad, I was doing my mortality rate assignment—but Sariya suggested me to do it in the end, reasoning of possible escalation in the figures by the time they will announce our vacations.”

“OK! But make sure to narrate me the Burhan Chapter from the book Legend.”

“Sure, Dad!” Sayir replies with a big smile on his face.

Burhan has always been a confusing character in Sayir’s life. His parents have two different narratives about him. His mother says: “They say people are born alone and they die alone too—and then, life goes on. But Burhan didn’t die alone. Hundreds died with him. Thousands were left lifeless. They are surviving but not living anymore. I respect his martyrdom, but then not everybody does.”

But their Dad has a different perspective—especially when it comes to killing and oppression in Valley: “Resistance in Kashmir is a matter of flashing and flickering. Burhan could just spark it. People didn’t die for him, they died for the cause. We have a context and that is to secede from an occupation. Burhan was martyred and the following martyrdoms were situational. Your mother tries to be subjective in these matters and I cannot stop contextualizing situations.”

Grooming in such a family setup is maturing the siblings beyond their years. But then, they aren’t the only politically-matured kids in Azadpur. There are countless like them. And all of them have a different idea of fun.

Lately when snow carpeted the entire valley white, these kids came out in droves to re-enact that vintage street act. Some choose to be cops, while most of them, masked protesters. For the day, snow became a cold weapon in their tiny hands. But that rage—that set Azadpur free from the idea of death since long—was quite real in display. Even chillia kalan’s bone-numbing cold couldn’t ice up their ignited passion for liberation.

Such are Azadpur’s children…

(This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.)

The author is a post-graduation student.

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