Death in My Hamlet

by Saima Rashid

Girl

It is a hot Thursday, and I am shivering with cold!

Graveyard is my next-door-neighbour. I can watch some men preparing a grave — grave for the best girl of my hamlet. Although it was time for her parents to design her palanquin, but God had some other plans. My sister is continuously looking through the window. They are digging it too deep, she whispers. It is a haunting scene. They are taking her off from light to darkness. For eternity!

I will miss her. No, I am already missing her! When was the last time we talked?

I guess some three years back. I always wanted to talk. But she would walk with her head down. I long for one last time memory. No reminiscence. Demise apparently works like a black hole—nothing comes back.

In next hour or two, people will gather for Nimaz-e-Jinaza. Some hair splitters will be busy counting number of rows for her last prayers. If it is more than three, she will land up in paradise. If not… Huh!

Let them say whatever. Little do they think about the curfew? Traffic movement has made an escape to busiest roads in some other world.

Her cop father is posted in some distant corner of the valley. I wonder how they would reach him in times of cellular communication breakdown. A father has lost his daughter. He has lost his heart. And he hardly knows it. Perhaps he is busy confronting protesters on streets.

Soon he will be singing paeans: I won’t let you go in the dark/ Nor you would see the daylight/ Let my embrace be your world/ And my heart your Universe…

Three years back, when her class 12 results were out, she received a big shock of her life. She failed to qualify in some subjects. But, I mean, come on! How come board results can judge your intelligence? No! Not at all. She was a brilliant student in the entire hamlet. I wish, I could say, she is! Like my sister says: “I wish it was just a rumour!”

But it is not. I can overhear the tailor stitching her shroud. Some boys just walked down with a corpse. Her mother is pulling her hair, crying like a child: “Please come back to life, my princess! We don’t care about your scorecard nor do we care how well you are with Science. The only thing that matters is you breathing, and smiling like a newborn baby…”

Mourning was never so intense in my hamlet.

Stress, tension, depression had taken toll on her tender heart. And all this shrank her longevity. Setbacks of class 12 and her father’s police job were instant distress to her. In whispers, she would talk about a ‘grieving hole’ in her heart. The hole did her let live, but not for long.

I hear some mourners talking if they should wait for her father.

But away from my hamlet, the ‘kill list’ is continuously getting updated. How many today? One, two, three…? Conflict of figures! Those rendered blinded are listed separately and a big moron was heard saying, “Few bucks are enough to light their defected eyes.”

That is how the game of life and death is being played in my homeland. You know what, hell awaits for morons like them! Perish. Morons are Satan’s illegitimate progeny!

I still watch them digging her grave…

She died of heart attack. My mum says, “Hang-ti-mangik mout nish gassi khuda racchhun”. (God should protect one from dying for no reason).

Muezzin was calling for Asr prayers when I overheard about her sudden death. I said my heartbroken prayers for her departing soul. I couldn’t pray for her family because my prayers won’t heal their wounded hearts.

Death is fixed — be it sudden, or reasonable one. I wonder what we are proud of: A big bungalow, a big car, a worthy degree. Hell with such degree, which costs you life. But in my homeland, death not only keeps no calendar, but always has busy week.

Monday: “An MBA returns home on vacation only to become another summer casualty.” Tuesday: “A to-be-bride killed by a stray bullet while peeking outside her window.” Wednesday: “A boy who predicted his death was shot dead in close range.” Thursday: “A father of five lynched to death.” Friday: “Two engineers turned militants gunned down in a raging gunfight.” Saturday: “A protester ‘allegedly’ killed in police action.” Sunday: “Five-year-old shot dead in his father’s lap.”

Breathing! Breathing! Suffocation! Not Breathing! DEATH!

He is home. Yes, her father is finally home. He sees lots of people moving around. He assumes some elder in the neighborhood has passed away.

Little does he know his family is now minus one.

He moves further. His residence is visible now. He asks a man a reason of mourning. The man puts hand on his shoulder and tells him, “May Allah give you the courage to bear this unbearable loss!” He moves further but something inside heart resists him to step further. He watches one of his daughters standing lifeless in the corner. He turns pale. Tears start rolling down his eyes.

His daughter is sleeping in the lawn watched by many eyes. He moves closer to her. He shouts: She is alive! She is breathing! She is journeying to a long slumber! I will meet her in dreams!

He takes her in lap but doesn’t cry. He faints. He opens his eyes. She is no more in his lap. She is being bathed for the last time.

Everyone is busy talking about her—as how she had greeted both her parents last evening. But truth is, something was eating her inside. She was never comfortable with her father’s cop job. She was sensitive enough about precarious situation in Kashmir. Attacks on cops and their residences after Burhan Wani’s killing had set her thinking. Maybe, she was anticipating the trouble. It was making her lose calm—until the vicious stress stopped her heartbeat.

They finally take her away. They are lowering her in her grave. My sister is still silently mourning—so is everyone in my hamlet. But I don’t want to cry, mourn. I am thinking something: “Is she the only one of her kind in Kashmir?” No, she can’t be. Cops do have daughters. And some them might be feeling the unspoken pinch.

“Don’t think so much,” my sister intervenes between me and my thinking self. “We are God’s forsaken lots and our conflicting realities are silently perishing us!”

We both raise our eyes toward Heavens as if in complain. It is getting cloudy. Light, it seems, has been taken out of our hamlet.

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