My subconscious insisted to slap him, and later vomit what I ate, but couldn't – probably my conscious is still far from feeling what the "dead" feel…
It is Eid but sad! I didn't sleep the previous night waiting for today. And, here's "today". I go for Fajr prayers – me, with my father. We enter the Masjid. Wait for a moment. Stand up silent… and… Allaahu Akbar. I pray. My father prays. I stay. My father leaves and I follow him. "Where?" I ask him. "To the graveyard", he replies. "Father, why is it always on Eids only we go to the graveyard?" I enquire. "Our Prophet (PBUH) did it. It's customary, son".
As he tries to explain the custom, I already knew, we see a flash of two yellow and two white lights coming slowly towards us. "What's that", he asks me. "A load carrier or something; but the lone roar on the quiet road sounds that of a pickup," I answer. We are walking in the middle of the road and I tell my father to just keep off the road. Here it comes, a Forces' van. It pulls over in the middle of the road just in front of us. I thought, as an easy prey, they would beat us, stuff both of us and take us to somewhere to an unknown place, since there was nobody beside us on the road. But my apprehensions were soon proved wrong when a shout from behind reached my ear – "hey stop". But we kept moving believing it to be a jumble between the throttle of the vehicle and our "quiet" walking. "Hey, you! Stop", a man in "unif-arms", yelled beside the hatch of the vehicle. We stopped. "Where are you going?" he asked. "To the graveyard," we replied in once voice. "Graveyard! Why?" he asked. My father jumped in. "We have to… on every Eid… visit the graveyard… to pray for peace of the departed… and…" He seemed to tell him everything he missed to tell me earlier but was interrupted by a seemingly polite officer from the vehicle. "Eid Mubarak" were his first words. He gives me a box. "Take this," he puts the box in my hands. "What's that?" I asked. "Nothing, but sweets," he tried to explain that he wanted to distribute sweets among the local people and found it apt to start with us. So far, so good!
Hang on! Here's the best part. I was about to refuse the box and burst out my anger about what they have been doing to us when a flash of all the recent incidents surfaced to my mind. The killing of a town-mate and many others in the nearby villages, and the 'daily evening shows' of 'shelling and pelleting'. On one side they are killing us and on the other they offer us bloody sweets! Was it a joke?
Before I could utter anything, he told his 'unif-armed' man to take some pictures. Now that seemed very stagy to me. Did he want to publicise his effort in being 'enemy-friendly' with us Kashmiris? Seeing the 'unif-armed' men that too when no one is around is always scary! Luckily, three neighbours passed by but stopped to see what was going on. Now I gathered my courage and gave him the box back. "It's not easy for us to accept what you offered," I told him. And, here my father intervened, addressing the officer; probably apprehending that my loose talk might get us in some trouble. "You are like my son and I tell you very frankly that you are not involved in anything," my father said trying to avoid 'word-pelting'. "I tell these stonepelters too to be our friends. It's the politicians who are responsible for the whole problem," the young officer said. Meanwhile, a neighbour joined in; "we live in a society and we will have to answer everyone if we accept the box of sweets." The officer responded by saying, "we too have to report to our seniors that we are doing our bit." Then my father and the three neighbours told me to accept that. As my father gave him blessings, he gave me a handshake. We reached the graveyard. "Spoke" to the graves for some time and then left for home, carrying the box of sweets in hiding.
Following the program given by the United Resistance Leadership as a mark of protest, and as a mark of unity, we were supposed to offer Eid prayers in a nearby playground just across the river. I along with my father and 7-year old nephew (always excited to join prayers in masjid or anywhere) left home for prayers. On our way, we learnt that the venue for Eid prayers was sealed by police and CRPF and that people were told to offer the prayers at Jamia Masjid. As we were about to reach the Jamia Masjid, hundreds of people were marching towards the main venue – the playground. As a bridge separates the two venues, people assembled near the bridge shouting slogans. Some local imams decided to meet the officer-in-charge just to request his permission to offer prayers. I had vibes about the situation getting worse. So, I took my nephew and a cousin's teenage son out of the assembly just to avoid any untoward incident. As we took a small alley, a bang we heard! We started rushing towards the highway that would lead us to home. Soon the air was filled with tear and pepper smoke.
As we reached the highway, a senior policeman, a friend, greeted me and hugged me and asked me about my family especially my ailing mother and advised me and others around to move to safer places. We reached home safe but my father was still somewhere among those who were being chased by police, CRPF and army men. Many got seriously injured – many young and some old. Some hit by pellets and others due to stampede. Those who were not injured by pellets were caught and then beaten.
On our way to the graveyard and back home, I was feeling guilty for the mistake I did by accepting the sweets. But, the lessons and teachings received at home and school helped me calm myself that if an enemy tries to reconcile give him that space for reconciliation. And, in this case I just failed to trace the "enemy."
Could someone please help me find the enemy? We still have some space left! Don't we?