One Night Under Siege-A Short Story

It was dusk and I was sitting with Shahid,a childhood friend,on the banks of Wular Lake.It was the place we often visited and loved to play games at.We would pick up pebbles and throw them up with our hand upside down to catch them again.The one finishing all the pebbles in one stroke without dropping one out of his hand would emerge victorious.Sometimes,we would skim stones over the surface of the lake.But that evening was disparate.Shahid was worried about the health of his mother who had lost her emotonal responsiveness after the disappearance of her husband in the 90’s.I could feel Shahid descended in a curious taste of melancholy.I pulled him closer and let him calm his head on my shoulder.We were both gazing at the sky with burning passion and desperation in our eyes.He remembered some verses from a poem by beloved Ghalib by heart and read them aloud to me.It was something we tried to find solace in and on our way,we talked poetry,we walked poetry:
“Thousands of desires,each worth dying for…
Many of them I have realized…yet I yearn for more.”
We were waiting for the Muezzin’s call to Azaan and to our surprise,the loudspeaker in its rough sound gave out a howl with bad news as its concern.
“No one will come out of their houses.Curfew is in force till next announcement.Anyone observed defying the curfew will be shot dead,”the mike closed with a soldier crying out from the background,”Do it fast,stupid.”
Words failing to come out of our mouths,we bid farewell to eachother.Shahid was reluctant to see me off but I could not stay with him in a state of hue and cry.
“They are liscenced to kill,”he said leaving quickly through an alley.Silence prevailed and at times,hoots raised out of the camps assigned in our town as loud as a thunder.
As I entered into my room to find my phone and ask Shahid about the health of his ailing mother,it had been left abandoned on a table and as I opened the lock it did not show any network indicaton or bars.I suspected my brother might have done something to it but my phone’s inbox revealed to me the reality and I was confronted by a message:
“Mobile services in your area have been suspended due to security concerns.”
I collapsed to my own Achilles’ heel and was left frustated with my hands on my knees looking downward like a lover whose heart has been crushed by the heartlessness of the beloved.
It was the separation of Shahid that cut me apart.He was the guy who had shared all the moments of life with me.Happy moments.Sad moments.We had had them together.He was the one who could do anything for me.Anything!
Midnight arrived and I leaned over my bed trialing on and on to catch a sleeping spot.
“Will not Shahid be aching for his mother?
Will they be having medicine at their home?
Will not he be missing me?”
These questions kept nagging my mind till I finished my last cigarette.I tried to dwell into some kind of a dream and fool myself with the idea of thinking of the most cherished place I wanted to visit.
Somehow,my mind took wandering into the sea of dreams and I toured miraculous peaks of Kashmir.I moved past the oodles of deodars,lush and verdant;each one a step to plots I had never gone through.I could see cuckoos flying by the snow,an old man blowing a water pipe far louder than the buzz of a drone,rivers,frozen lakes and children playing cricket on them.Weavers were fabricating kangris.My dream only grew better and took delightful turns when I could not see any master and slave and love and happiness had got the people into its fold.Flowers bloomed and people lived in harmony.Greed and hegemony were not in the dictionaries even.Bad blood was seldom a call.
Dawn appeared and a ray of light pierced through the solely window of my domicile.Birds started chirping and singing and I yearned for a cockcrow which always destroyed my ill feelings of infidelity.
I clustered some valor to stand up and unclose the solely window of my domicile.I could see a number of soldiers loading AK-47s,a curfewed populace,worrying faces around check-posts,children wired in concertina,columns of poplars and over these-the barrel of an AK-47 pointing exactly at me.
I was left suspended between my dreams and my existence:My dreams are beautiful and my existence a condition of dashed hopes.
Where are the deodars and the cuckoos?Where is the old man and his water pipe?Where lie the children playing cricket?Why this hate and slavery?Why this otherization?
“Oh!It was just a dream.An illusion!A lie that had no legs,”I grumbled disrupting lips.
Witnessing the hate,I took up a screw in my hand and penetrated it through the white-washed wall of my room writing in bold letters,”YOU CAN DESTROY MY LIFE,NOT DREAMS.”It did not fill my appetite and I went on writing an anonymous quote,”YOU CAN KILL OUR MEN,NOT IDEAS.”
I fell on my bed again to take a nap and tour the miraculous peaks of Kashmir.

( published here- )


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