Arshid Malik
Arshid Malik

If I had been a foreigner, I would have some way or the other managed to procure a nook of land in Kashmir and settled there. But unfortunately I am not a foreigner but a native to this beautiful place that tends to flow more like a poem rather than premium terrain. Kashmir is so bewitching that I really long to be an outsider who would take to its natural charms and just escape into it, “far from the maddening crowd”.  Well, that is not happening but yet I dream about it. I guess I have every right to dream and let you know what I dream about. I am sorry if I am making little sense as the very thought of Kashmir makes me go dizzy and talk jittery. And besides, I am grief struck; one, because I am not a stranger to the valley who could easily fall in love with it and two, while I am a native, I am far away from it. I love Kashmir and my love for it just over bounds all the time.

While you are Kashmiris, my friends, and are residing there, you may not actually or rather more specifically sentimentally be drawn to the appeal of the valley. While I was there, I could barely make out what Kashmir actually was, and three and a half years thence I am love struck. I have learnt over the years, “post-partum”, that there is nothing that could ever surpass Kashmir in terms of natural beauty, charm and charisma. Kashmir for me now is not just a place but rather an idea that is almost animate as a human being could ever manage to be. Kashmir is my muse and I just cannot afford to do without it. Words fail me when I start writing about my Kashmir. My heart sinks when I think of the distance that has crept in. I am away and that is very sad. I am as sad as a woe-begotten lover could be. True love I speak of.

If I love Kashmir so very much, then why I am away from it, one may ask. Well, it is a self imposed exile.  I left Kashmir when things started going really wrong. I had been a psychological victim of the suppression and little “acknowledged” massacres that shot the course of time in the past few decades. Every day, I would wake up to find about someone I knew intimately, remotely or not all murdered in cold blood. Each moment passed in fear; not for my own life but for the lives of my people, for their security and perseverance in the face of the harshest times humanity could ever face. I jostled across, every year, laden with grief of loved ones lost or gone missing. I grew up to be a man in utter agony. There was bloodshed all around and nobody could justify it, oh crap! No one even cared to think about it. I lost the most wonderful years of my life to the violence and mayhem and I could not blame anyone but myself. “Why was I born in Kashmir,” I would agitatedly ask myself but my “self” was so badly injured that all it did was utter a grievous moan. I had no answers while my database of questions was growing overwhelmingly with every passing day. I started asking around but no one had answers; they had more questions for me. The mother I met on a cold winter evening left me colder when she asked me if I knew when her son would return who had been dead for well a decade then. There were fathers who asked me if their children would live another day in safety. There were sisters who had hit rock hard depression ever since their brothers had been reported dead or missing. Then there was this girl child with broad brown eyes, who kept asking for “Papa” and no one knew who she was talking about as they themselves had lost track of time and human “relativity”. She had lost both parents and with no siblings or caring relatives she sat on this cold, damp mat in an orphanage. But of course she was right. Where on earth was her “Papa”? It was one of the most overweighing questions in my database.

It went on and on for a long time and I started going “crazy”. I could not eat, sleep, write or think properly. I could not even sit for five minutes at the same place and was always pacing floors and streets. I had to get a grip on myself and that I did for the sake of those who were still there, alive, yet petrified. I wanted to do something for my people, somehow. This gave me a good reason to avoid going proper nuts. I collected myself and relocated myself in thoughtless inertia. Years went by and things started getting better, perhaps for the worse.

A few years back, something, a spark perhaps, ignited a fire in Kashmir and the whole population was on boil against alleged suppression, dehumanization and unabated massacres of the people of Kashmir at the hands of the so-called security forces. A year went by and so many dear ones were lost in the fire. I stood firm. Another year carried the sparks of the previous meddled with more burnished ones and more fell to “assuming” bullets. I felt myself spiralling back into time and a peculiar weariness crept up my spine. I could not take it any more – no more murders please. My beautiful valley was always full of blossoming colours and the colour red was meant for roses not blood. My knees started buckling under the weight of questions buried in the past with millions of other newly found ones. I decided to retire. Had a family to care about, especially a very enthusiastic and lively son who I did not want to turn into another version of me, so a dwelling in the forests was no option for me? I am pettily settled in the plains now where I don’t listen to the news and don’t read newspapers. I am living a quite life as I have had enough.

Yet my love for my muse, my motherland would not fade away, never ever. I am a recluse; a failed lover who has sought refuge in loneliness and a convoluted decree of life.


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