The Day I Started Floating Around

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by Arshid Malik

Jinxed? Yes, that is what I was. My life changed tremendously all of a sudden; not that I did not know it could change but that I was never so aware that my immediate social circumstance could affect my life in such a manner.

I started speaking less. I would not go out. I would not mingle with friends anymore. I did not like being myself anymore. I eventually started floating down the rivers of time like a log of wood. My existence turned painful.

The day it all began, I would never forget. It was the 21st of January, 1990, the day the “Gow Kadal Massacre” took place. Hundreds of people were marching together; it was a peaceful pro-freedom procession and as soon as it reached Gow Kadal, the troops opened fire, shooting down innocent people as if they were game fowl. Soon the bylanes of our locality were rocked by the commotion, as wounded people toppled over each other. There were bitter cries and chants of freedom and lots of blood.

I was stupefied in inaction. A certain kind of inertia had taken over me; I could not even move a limb. I stood there, watching. I wanted to cry but could not muster courage enough. I was muted.

Years on, when I am with people and do not speak much, I am intervened. “Why don’t you talk”, is the fervent question that jumps into my lap as soon as people start noticing that I actually talk very little, and sometimes not at all. I excuse myself out, and again the horrors of that day start hoarding my mind. Well, I do not have bandages on doesn’t mean that I am not hurt.

So the story of my life goes. A teeming youngster turned into an almost dead mass of flesh, bones and blood and a story not to be told.

It is like a terminal sickness, this nauseating thought of the massacre that took place nearly 20 years ago but never reaching the terminus.

Did I tell you that I used to write poetry – free verse – earlier? I had a manuscript of around 120 poems that stood corrected and corroborated by certain teachers of my times. I gave it up later and burnt the manuscript. I committed more and more of such ridiculous acts, in an attempt to wipe my blood-stained slate clean, but the slate remained the way it had been, while I lost much of what I had created.

To this day, I try to shake off the ghost of the past but never succeed. I now figure that I am what I am and that can hardly be changed. Within the walls of my heart, the agonizing cries of the victims of the “Gow Kadal Massacre” are enshrined and I certainly cannot do anything about it. It is all a part of me, and it is all that composes me. Thousands of atrocities committed along the “fault lines” against my people – my brothers and sisters – definitively spell me out and without them, I cease to exist.

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