Businessman slips to death from a Zabarwan hill

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SRINAGAR: A young businessman Suhail Raja was trekking in the Zabarwan belt of Srinagar. He is reported to have slipped and fell down. This has led to his death. Basically from Mazhama in Tangmarg, his family had earlier shifted to Sopore and then migrated to Srinagar.

Suhail is reported to have been in the business of real esatte and lived in Nishat. Not much is known about the the immediate follow-up to the accident.

Suhail was a classmate of Middle East based Kashmiri journalist Sameer Bhat who broke the news and wrote the following note on his facebook.

Suhail Raja

“He came to our school, the best in Sopore, in early 90s. Militancy was on its peak. Boys would only talk about the latest commanders, their fancy nom de guerres, the automatic weapons they flaunted. I wasn’t frankly enamored of the men with Kalashnikovs, mostly because we lived in the civil lines area, which the militants found unsafe, perhaps because it was a planned locality that offered less camouflage and cover. Other boys who came from the old town just wouldn’t stop raving about the rebels and their shiny guns. Into this era of high esteem, a trademark in those years, walked in Suhail Raja.

A stocky guy who had just broken into his teens, he added to the endless grand tales about mujahids with a flavor of his own. He was not from the town. His parents had just shifted to Sopore from some village in Tangmarg, near the famous ski resort of Gulmarg. It took us a while to accommodate this ‘hilly’ lad amongst us. He spoke with a distinct accent that stood apart from how most Soporis speak, which is rather gruff and hasty. In measured words, and a guttural voice, Suhail told us about a top commander (I am forgetting the name now) who was killed in Tangmarg (must be 94-95). The meadow where he was killed, he emphasized, gets radiant at night. Like Nor! When I asked why can’t it be someone with a lantern, he gave me that ‘just-shut-up-Sam’ look.

So school continued well into the militancy years. We got close. He was majorly into athletics and extra-curriculars (which was a bit of a joke because too many bombs were going off around us) but Suhail gelled in well. A strapping boy with blue-eyes, he cut a dashing figure. A good amount of our time would go into discussing how girls secretly ogled him in the class and the school corridors. He would blush in his ears and cheeks. Kashmiris then (even now), most folks, are shy and circumspect when it comes to expressing feelings. Suhail was no different but we never allowed him to forget that he has the best hair and best blue eyes in the whole school and he must go ahead and ask a few girls out. I don’t think he ever did.

Sameer Bhat

Sameer Bhat

I lost track of him after school. He was not on social media and there was no trace of him. I discussed him with the only school friend, I am still close to. Even Tansir had no clue. The journalist in me won’t give up so soon. I knew where he lived when he used to be in school. So upon one of my trips from abroad, I knocked on that door. An elderly gentlemen stepped out. He turned out to be a kind retired professor. I asked him if he knew the whereabouts of a friend of mine, who stayed there back in the 90s. The professor gave me Suhail’s father’s number. Apparently they were related. Journalists know how to dig stuff.

So I called his dad and asked for my friend. He gave me Suhail’s number. They lived in Srinagar now. I dialed. Perhaps after 20-22 years, I heard Suhail. The same raspy voice, that gravelly lilt in the manner of speaking. He was excited to hear me after ages (literally). Apparently he went to college and then started his own venture and did quite well. In the last one or two years, he even got on Facebook. Since my Kashmir sabbaticals are short, between a week to ten days, I never got around to meet him again. We kept in touch on Facebook though. I always resolved to meet him but never did.

Earlier today he went hiking in the hills and slipped, and died. Tansir texted from India. I thought this was some kind of a bad joke, Sopore-style. It wasn’t. I felt like to cry in my car. I remembered his face from school days, the edginess about him, the blush of his ears. I should have met him. I wanted to tell him that I was only joking about the lantern in the meadow. May be the place really got lit by itself.

We don’t want to shake off some myths in life. What if all the myths were true?

May you shine in the stars and the heavens beyond, Suhail Raja.”

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