My Moon Has Blood Clots on It
Ever since my childhood, I’ve been incredibly fascinated by the moon. “Look at my moon, enlightening the darkness of the night, with its luminosity” I said to Adeel. He was my neighbor as well as my best friend. We used to roam about incessantly, marveling over the picturesque vividness of the valley; overawed time and time again by its serpentine rivers, mighty waterfalls, lush straits of cypress trees and the grandeur of its exquisite scenic beauty. After sunset we’d comfort ourselves in the outhouse, playing cards and enjoying countless bouts of Kahwa –Kashmiri green tea, prepared by boiling green tea leaves along with saffron strands, cinnamon barks and cardamom pods. Whenever Adeel was away tending to his chores, I’d spend my time in Mum’s kitchen discussing the ingenuity with which my dadi (grandmother) paired Matsch (aromatic balls of minced mutton) with fresh and ripe Aalu-bukharas (plums) or her adroitness over Hokhgard Ta Bum (dried river fish with water lily stems) and Rogan Josh (fiery red mutton curry).
Come the late nineties, the impending situation in the valley had changed drastically. Insurgency proceedings were on a high, making all realistic endeavors for Jammu & Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan. I recall one of the daily newspapers’, publishing an expulsion order for all the Kashmiri Pandits. My grandfather vehemently discarded all such premonitions labeling them as apocryphal figments of imagination of bigoted lunatics. My mother, however, was more concerned. When a person encounters a setback of insurmountable magnitude, he realizes his utter susceptibility to the gallows and trysts of destiny; He recognizes the divine reality, that God, the creator of affection as well as affliction is the only entity capable of mitigating him from the throngs of adversity and misery. My mother was no different. She earnestly paid her respects to Mata Kheer Bhawani, imploring her to keep our backs safe of all calamities. My grandfather was adamant over his stance. He said “Beyond all the divisive elements the kangri (a kashmiri claypot used in winters for warmth), the inherited tolerance, the melancholic tunes of the tumbaknaer (a drum) and common ancestors unite all Kashmiris. This is our homeland. The Zaafraan of Kashmir is embodied with the musk of our ancestors. Its steeped plateaus reverberate the tales of our struggles and sacrifices against the onslaught of colonial giants. Herein I’ve lived and here shall I die.”
It was as if despondency and misery were etched on our palms, and no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t liberate ourselves of the shackles of our wretched fate. The masked men, with Kalashnikovs, forced everyone to reset their clocks and watches to Pakistani standard time. Notices were glued outside everyone’s home, peremptorily asking the occupants to leave Kashmir within 24 hours or face death. Some were more lucid- “Be one of us, run or die”. They say fear is an abstraction; it can only be felt and not seen. I visualized fear, on my grandfather’s face.
However, the fateful night of 19th January, 1990 shattered all our qualms of normalcy being restored in the valley. That night, all across the valley, out went the call from the minarets of mosques-Ralliv, Czhalliv Ya Galliv – Convert, leave or die. The air of uncertainty is more terrifying, than the throngs of death. Uncertainty- Well, neither does it strangulate you, nor does it allow you to breathe easily, leaving you hovering in the darkness, towards obscurity.
My grandfather decided to cut off the umbilical cord.
My story meanders through discourses, but betrayal exists as a continuum. The drive from Srinagar to Jammu is dotted with hairpin curves that blurred all the pretty sights that nature had to offer. I kept asking my Grandfather- “Where are we going grandpa? I want to go back home. I want to play with Adeel. The neighbor’s goat will certainly chew up our pomegranate sapling.”Grandpa kept quiet. The sight of my mother carrying a cyanide pill, tied to her pallu is perhaps the most daunting memory of my life. No matter how hard I try; I cannot erase it from my memory.
When my grandfather died, I realized that factually he’d died long ago. He’d died the moment we left our ancestral home. He was just a carcass of flesh and bones. When he died, he’d just stopped breathing-he’d died on that very night. The chilly, dark, sinister night of 19th January.
I don’t need sympathies, because no one will be able to truly realize the magnitude of my pain, the depth of my wounds. How would you realize, what it feels like being forced to leave your own homeland? What it feels like living as a refugee in your own country?
Twenty five years is a long time. It’s the quarter of a century. In another 25 years, that memory will begin to fray at the edges and over the next 25 years, it’ll crumble into indistinguishable bits and pieces. Yet, it’d be a crime to allow some tragedies to fade away from popular memory. To forget, and even worse, to forgive is tantamount to belittling the suffering of the victims, while exonerating their tormentors. Seeking to forget makes the exile all the longer, the secret of redemption lies in remembrance. I have my life. I am living it. It’s twisted, exhausted, uncertain and full of guilt, but nonetheless there’s something there. I always wanted a perfect ending. Now, I’ve learned the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories do not have a clear beginning, middle, or end.
I find similarities with the stories of the homeless, ranging from Afghanistan to Bosnia, Chechnya, Congo and Palestine. I search their stories for signs of betrayal. I ask them how they deal with it, because my story of betrayal is a festering wound and I don’t know how to make peace with it.
Kashmir is no longer the heaven on earth, as once quoted by a Mughal ruler. I’ve kept myself informed of all the happenings in the valley since the past couple of decades ranging from the misuse of AFSPA by the army, to the Konan Poshpura massive rape incident. As an Indian, I’ve learnt a crucial lesson from my previous experiences. Always backup the underdogs, because nobody backed me up when I was at the receiving end. As for my moon it’s lost it sheen a wee bit. It continues to illuminate the darkness, with its finesse and radiance, but seems to have lost its panache.
My moon has blood clots on it.
Image source: pixabay.com