Adoring Alternatives 

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In turbulent times, loved ones make things easier. In hostile situations and enforced disconnect – as was the case post-August 5, 2019, youngsters had a tough time to manage. They, however, discovered ways and means to counter the disconnect, reports Tasavur Mushtaq

A couple walks in the Chinar shades in Srinagar. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Sunday, August 4, 2019, 29-year-old Irfan Ahmad was home exactly a year after he shifted outside Kashmir for better job prospects. A resident of Nawa Kadal, in Srinagar’s old city, Irfan works for the US-based IT company in Bangalore. The only son of his parents, Irfan had come to celebrate Eid with his family. His other joy was to see Ifra, his fiancée of over one year, the first time after their ring ceremony in July 2018. Friends in school and later batch mates in Srinagar’s engineering college, Irfan and Ifra were in courtship for almost a decade before formalizing their relationship in 2018. Together for a decade, this was the first year that literally separated them.

Before his arrival, Irfan had planned his stay of 20-days, meticulously. He had chosen the places beforehand where he would take Ifra along. His father, Muhammad Shafi was also keen to finalise the marriage dates. The matchmaker was scheduled to visit them on August 5, 2019, the next day of Irfan’s arrival.

In between the hope and happiness, however, the situation after the morning light of August 5 ensured separation to prolong. Irfan could not talk to Ifra even once nor could his father decide the dates. The only consolation for the young techie was to walk to Lal Bazaar where Ifra resides.

“I have never faced such a desperate situation even when our families were not supportive of our marriage proposal,” Irfan said. “It is a pain not to see your loved ones and even leave without talking to them.” He had to leave without meeting. The outing plans were dashed. Even he could not unpack her gifts.

Concerned about the health of Mehvish as she had undergone surgery, Asif was on tenterhooks on August 4 evening, enquiring from every other person “what is going to happen in Kashmir.” The strong ‘rumours’ had made him restless. His concern was the connectivity which helped him to stay in touch with his ailing friend of years, Mehvish. The next day, he had increased anxiety.

The only option he had was his cell phone. Confused, he continued talking for hours, throughout the day, evening, till the moment the services were withdrawn in the middle of the night, instantly. The call was dropped without formal farewell.

Shattered to see his fears coming true, he could not sleep for the rest of the night. Early morning, he rushed outside to see the situation, only to come back disappointed. The developments later squeezed his peace and patience.

“I was devastated to see the silence and not able to reach Mehvish in times of distress,” Asif said.

The following days passed in pain. Resilient to reach Mehvish’s residence in Baghaat Kanipora, Asif, a resident of Buchpora in Srinagar finally managed to see Mehvish after 15 days on August 19. The task was testing. It took him five days and a lot of stuff at home to train eight-year-old cousin, Babar. Stuck to his room, he explained Babar the process to enter Mehvish’s residence and enquire about her well-being.

Both students of the same university and the same stream, Asif took Babar along. He handed him a book with a letter inside and dropped outside the residence of Mehvish. As the boy entered the house asking for Mehvish, she recognized him and introduced him as the cousin of her friend, Farah who had come with a book for examination. She took him upstairs where Babar handed over the book and waited for the response. She gave him the other book and a response letter inside.

Recuperating from the illness, she could not stay indoors. After giving a few chocolates to Babar, she accompanied him to the gate. Asif was waiting outside. They both shared glances, smiles, and a feeling of satisfaction. The response letter later helped the duo to see each other on the scheduled date at a specified place.

The Autumn Tears

Anjum, 30, spoke last time to his friend, Amir, over the phone during the night of August 5. Not well in the recent past, Amir had some health issues. Anjum too was fighting her bad health. Both knew about the possible clampdown. Concerned about the emerging situation and the loss of connection, the two on Sunday had a long conversation, the first time in many years. The last line of the conversation came from Anjum, “Amir, please take care of yourself. I won’t be around for some time.” The line was disconnected and both felt dejected.

The next morning, Anjum witnessed what she had discussed with Amir over the phone – a complete clampdown. Looking at her phone, aimlessly, strange thoughts crowded upon her for the next many days.

With feelings of defeat and dread, every morning, she walked and wondered. Every night, she slept and sighed. “My heart was beating rapidly whenever I thought about Amir and his state of health,” she said. “My strength was fading away as destiny had put me in despair.”

As time passed, her strength ebbed and her sighing grew weak. She looked around with grief and tenderness. With no reason to move out and no personal vehicle in the family, she was lost in making out the way to reach Amir. One day, as her cousin came to see their family, Anjum, a resident of Zakura in city outskirts requested him to take her out to buy some essentials from the market. He agreed. The place to purchase was chosen by Anjum. As she reached the nearby bank, she asked her cousin to wait on the plea of making a call to her friend outside the state. The fixed lines of the bank branch were working. It was the same bank where Amir was posted. As she entered the premises, Amir was the first person to greet her. The joy of separated souls knew no bounds.

Without giving away anybody to think anything, Amir accompanied Anjum to the cabin of the branch manager where she pretended to make a call. Amid silent glances, the two communicated their concerns and before parting ways, they set the date, place, and timing of the next meeting. 

Unlike Amir, Ishfaq was unlucky. Unaware of the whereabouts of Afreen since August 5, he had no idea how to mitigate the crisis. After a couple of weeks of desperation and memories flapping around him, Ishfaq took his bike silently from his home in Ahmad Nagar and reached Hyderpora where Afreen lives. With no source to intimate Afreen, Ishfaq continued his stride for the next ten days. The routine was to reach Hyderpora, make a couple of rounds with the hope of Afreen coming out, but there was no success. Contrary to this, he faced a hostile crowd in Hawal and Soura a couple of times.

Finally, his joy rested once on Friday when Afreen’s father came out for prayers. Ishfaq followed the man and reached to the masjid and offered his prayers there. “My joy was to see her father and that gave me assurance of the wellbeing of the family,” Ishfaq said.

In Gulab Bagh, an area between Srinagar’s Hazratbal and Ganderbal’s Nagbal, Wasim was lost in thoughts to manage a safe passage to see Mohsina, his batchmate in the university. With no way around, his neighbourhood friend, Raheel suggested him the remedy.

Next day, the duo waited outside the lane of the locality where Mohsina lives. As soon as the milkman came with his supplies to the area, they begged him for the replacement. Initially uninterested, when he heard the details, his heart moved. But the house was not specified to him. Agreed to help, he let Wasim, son of senior doctor to manage the few houses including that of Mohsina. But as the luck had it, she did not come out.

However, the routine was repeated for a few days. Finally, Mohsina saw Wasim. Shocked, she could not utter a word. But the smiles shared were satisfying for all times to come. “It was something which I could not control. The feeling of loss compelled me to become milkman for many days,” said Wasim.

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