Wielding a sharp-edged stone in his hand, this guy is about to hurtle it in the direction of an approaching armed forces vehicle. There is a fire in his eyes that betrays all sorts of reason. The stone is pelted and it lands straight on the windshield of the vehicle. Some shouts are heard and soon enough the armed forces open fire. Two boys who are watching the spectacles in bare amusement fall to the bullets. One is hit in the head and the other in the gut. There is blood everywhere and then there is the rage. More young men appear out of nowhere and start pelting stones at the armed police vehicle, obviously paying enough heed to the two fallen boys. There is no fear among these young men as they fight an “unknown” battle against who are now “enemies”. Soon enough backup arrives on the scene and bullets resound like popping corn in the vicinity. There are shrieks and yells. Cries for help and battle cries embrace each other like water and ice producing a mixture of measures unknown. As teargas shells explode and the unarmed, resisting young men start to disperse the womenfolk march down the streets shouting slogans against the atrocities. The men follow. The mother of one of the boys who was shot earlier hurtles herself at a cop, calling him names, wishing the worst of fate for his progeny. The cop flees the scene as the mother of the shot boy starts pulling out her hair. She is agonized. She is helpless. Her child is lying there on the street in a pool of blood. Eventually, she runs towards her fallen son, lifts his head and rests it in her lap. The other women are beating their chests, shouting slogans against the armed forces and police personnel who have now cordoned off the area. There is angst in the air. The young men again flood the streets and a bloodbath emerges. Scores are injured, some shot, some beaten to the pulp by relentless batons. All of a sudden I found a gun aiming at me. The bullet dislodged from the muzzle even before my eyes would blink.
Yesterday, as I worked my way back home, I was very exhausted. I had heard the news about some fresh blood having been shed in Kashmir and that deepened my exhaustion. Contemplating while having dinner – for which I had almost no appetite, yet indulged owing to my self-made cataclysmic rules about living a normal life no matter what – over the happenings of the day, my futile ventures in dintless apparitions I wondered how much more could I take for an individual and for that matter how much more could we as a population take. The bloody dance of death and gore had seeped so much into our lives that there would be hardly any day when we would go to sleep without fighting the trauma first. Such was the night that passed. I fell asleep and I dreamt. The bullet was forging its path ahead, ready to hit me between the eyes when I woke up. I was drenched in sweat. I ran downstairs and gulped down a glass of ice cold water. I was not sure what to believe – my recent afterthought that I had been dreaming or that actually the bullet had pierced my forehead and I was in the afterlife contemplating a possible escape. I lay awake in bed till dawn, my pulse throbbing in my head.
I started off on a very good note the next day. I was in a cherry mood. Of course the daily news had not changed its course but something inside me had. I was more confident after having faced death in a dream. After having walked a small distance from my home I saw some youth, masked, wielding stones in their hands. They were ready for another day of “battle”. As I approached the corner where they had gathered I heard a vehicle screech to a halt. And the fervent youth, who had laid there in anticipation perhaps since early morning, started pelting stones at the vehicle. Security troopers, well-braced for the “battle” started shooting, bullets and teargas shells. A young boy, around 15 years old, was hit by an unassuming teargas shell before it would explode. He was bleeding, crying for help as other young men who were part of the mob gained on fury after this fresh casualty and progressed too far ahead on the main street, pelting stones at the armed security troopers. It was an unfair battle by all standards, for how could bare stones meet the metal of the slugs. I had taken cover in a nearby shop which was half-closed, with a few more people. What happened afterwards was no different than what I had witnessed in my dream. So, in all actuality, I was again confused whether I was living the dream or was I dreaming about living a life.
This is Kashmir. No matter how much we try, we are under fire all the time. And for me there is sincerely no telling when that bullet hanging in mid air might actually hit me right between my eyes and put me to eternal sleep. It is a mosaic where the only color that shows is red, blood red.