It was one of the days of Hartals and curfews in Kashmir. I woke up late in the morning. Like several other past few days, it was again going to be another long curfewed day. The sun was shining hot and bright from the open sky. Kashmir was beautiful, curfewed and caged.
The newspaper was lying at a distance. I grabbed the paper to get some new updates about the situation. Since the situation worsened, newspapers have remained the only source of information in Kashmir. Every day something new happens and occupies the front page. Either it's the news about killings of civilians or massive pro-freedom rallies or the presence of gun yielding militants in these rallies. Every news depicts pain, sorrow, anger, grief and conflict.
I was yet to read even the headline when my father came in with a strange, young boy who was wearing an old jeans pent and a t-shirt. He was carrying a black, half-torn bag. He was hesitating to enter the house. My father repeatedly invited him and he followed. Father told me to bring juice for him as it was very hot outside. Ammi poured the juice into a glass tumbler and I served it to the boy. He was looking thirsty and hungry as if he hadn't eaten anything for days. He quickly gulped down the glass of juice. My father watched. "Everything would be fine. Don't worry. Allah looks for everyone. He is looking for you too. We must put our faith on him," my father tried to assure him as he nodded back with a shy silence. I couldn't recognize this strange guy. He wasn't from our area and I hadn't seen him around before. My father had bought some biscuits and Ammi served him the tea. Holding a piece of biscuit in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, he started telling his story.
"I am a labour, uncle," he said while staring at the wall. "Since the Hartals started I haven't got work for a month now. We had no money at home. The food was also running out," he said in a disappointment. "We couldn't borrow from anyone in this situation. I left from home in the early morning today and thought I might get some work in Srinagar somewhere. I asked for lift from many vehicles on the main road but no one stopped. I walked all the distance from my home and reached here. It was very late when I reached here, I waited on the side of the road where people usually pick-up the labourers but none came today. I got no work." His voice slowed a little. "I had eaten nothing from morning. It was very hot and I started walking back to my home and suddenly fell on the road. After that I don't remember what happened with me," he said while eating the last biscuit left in the plate. His hands were shaking as he held the tea cup. When he fell unconscious on the road, he said many people gathered around him. My father had seen him and brought him home. I felt so sad for him. We gave him some rice in a polythene bag for his home. He smiled and put it into his torn bag. He asked for a pair of shoes for himself. My father gave him some money and assured him that everything will be fine. He shaked his head in approval, thanked us, smiled and left. I followed him to the road and watched him till he disappeared from my sight.
As I was coming back, I saw many strangers walking down the deserted road. I looked back and saw a faint image of him; slowly disappearing. When I came back home, Ammi looked sad, the newspaper was lying on her side. I didn't read it that day. It was the 42nd day of curfew in Kashmir. For the first time I felt the misery of life in a conflict torn place. Let's not play politics this time. Let's unite, talk and solve this conflict once for all for the good of everyone.