I never knew death had a smell, and happiness a price. Until I met both. And it happened thus:
Clouds were hanging low nearly black. Rain as delicate as silk began to fall. It was not a day like any other. Prayers I sent to heavens were answered.
Maryam, my wife, was in labour room. Lying on a stretcher, she was screaming of pain. Living being is not born without a stern labour of a mother. She gave birth to a girl. I burst in the tears of happiness. Long were the nights of our barrenness.
Atmosphere at home was festive. However, celebrations are subject to permissions in conflict zones like ours. “Events in village be it marriage or any other event, camp officer should be informed in advance”; read the notice perched on the door of village mosque.
It was Sunday morning. Air was too heavy to breath. I left home to inform camp officer. A veil of pain was on my face. As I reached near the camp barbed wires welcomed me. Shaking, sweating and shivering, I entered the camp. Hours went by. Summoned at last in the office, I informed the man behind the table about scheduled function, though hesitantly. The name plate stitched on the right side of his chest displays “Major …..”
Next day as the morning spread its wings, the Major along with his troops reached to village. They headed straight to my house and called me out. He had a parting gift for my new born, a box full of toys and clothes. This all was given under operation “reach out” an initiative by government to reach local populace. Photographs were clicked. Tea was served. For us hospitality is not a custom but religion.
As days slipped into weeks, everything seemed fine. Until one evening, Village Sarpanch visited my house. He was worried. Two large hoardings of clicked photographs were raised outside the camp. In conflict zones it is unsafe to be on any side.
During the night I could not sleep. I was frozen. Night seemed longer than usual. Early morning when the first sun raise kissed mountains, I went to the camp again. This time hoardings held high welcomed me from far. Looking at them I could smell the death. After frisking, security personnel at gate let me in. Waiting for a while outside the office, I was called in. Major was not in a good mood. May be it was too early to disturb him. I requested for removal of hoardings which was rejected authoritatively. Coming out of camp, I had questions in my mind. I kept adding thought to thoughts.
Many moons passed, Autumn aroma was in the air. Trees were pregnant with fruit. I was working in my orchard, busy in packing apples. A young boy, half my age approached me. His beard and curly hair gave me his introduction. He was a Rebel. Handing over to me a letter, he left without an eye contact or a word. As I opened the letter, stamp at the top confirmed my fear. I was asked about my visits to the camp.
Week passed into weeks. I was deep in my thoughts. Glancing dying light of sunset through the broken window of my room. The knock at the door took me back to this world. The familiar boy along another took me along with them. As we reached the crust of a hill overlooking the village, everything around us grew dark. Without asking anything they fired bullets at me. The bullets pierced my body and put scars on my soul. I fell on the ground with an enormous thud. The earth which was carpeted green turned red. Neighbors rushed towards the hill. I was dead, but my eyes were open. I paid the price of happiness with my blood.
Now in quit moments of my grave, I seek answers to my questions. My eyes still wide open, perhaps sketching the shades of conflict.
Baseer Abbas currently works at District Court Anantnag