Protect My House
“Protect My House”
That very dark night, it was all cold; the village head as people addressed him was sobbing incessantly. Timeline: 9:00 P.M 18¬th April 1990. The day had greeted well; stones, harrowing announcements, threats and fresh posters. Evening went dark; lights were no way a good thing to do with. Lights meant more attacks and stones. Kerosene lamps did well. Everything was on the cards; Truck had come a bit early. Ghulam Mohd. Bhatt; smoking cigarettes and watching intensely. He was the only one in the entire village to have come out. He looked like in a bit of anxiety, with morose face and a little shred of embarrassment…..God knows well.
Lights went off from the truck. The old man was shrieking in pain. He was dragged a bit; resisted, holding and clasping his hands into the iron bearings of the truck. He used legs, hands, all his force but failed. Prithvi Nath Dhar; well build man (Tall, Smart and Muscular) from the village Seer, Anantnag. Everbody looked upto him. He was the head of the village; as people likened to call him so, always turning up for every problem of the village people. Prithvi Nath Dhar was compassionate, generous and all the good things.
That very evening; old man turned up into a child, he cried and suffered. He hid his face in his hands and resisted. Wiping his tears, wife and kids comforted him. Everyone broke down and wailed loudly. They all were watching each other helplessly. All of them knew; they were not going for vacation….that they were leaving their homes, home I mean…….Homes….All the rooms were closed, the house was bolted and locked. One could see a little speck of shiver going through everyone’s body. They were helpless; they had all gone weak and frail. The old man had lost all his strength, he was not strong now; he grew weak; veiled by despair. Lightening had struck them all. Nobody heard them. Friends and neighbours chose to remain inside. The old man with his face covered started crying loudly.
Holding a stick in his hands; he never allowed his family to take things from the house. The childhood pictures, photo frames of Gods and a picture of Lord Krishna; all of them were put back onto their places. Everything was left inside. Keeping things in the house meant hope; hope of coming back.
Handful of things; little packet of rice were kept inside the truck. A last gaze at the house. The torment went stretching and the pain was excruciating. Silence had gripped everything. There were no talks, nothing but only whispers and fearful whispers. They had lost their voices. The truck drew close; all the four families carved some space out for them. Lights meant fear, darkness meant survival. The number was 22 exactly; 3 of the family members at the front and 19 at the back of the truck, all glued to each other, no spaces left. Children, Men, Women, Elderly all of them stacked together. Truck was closed from all the sides with a black sheet. The journey had already started. All of them had a silent prayer, a prayer for someone to “Protect their Houses”…..Yes the silent prayer was directed to friends and neighbours; Vijay confirms…….. And the prayer was never answered.
“But behind the shutters, our friends of yesterday
The old man in his hoarse voice: Driver! “Stop only when we reach Jammu.” Fear had surpassed everything, it was insurmountable. At the back of the truck, one could listen to intermittent sobs and wails. Nobody knew where they were going….they were waiting. They had even forgotten to eat. Every one of them wore gloomy faces. Children were hungry; they ate, vomited, urinated….inside the truck. All the vehicles were halted at Qazigund; on the National Highway. At Qazigund, the images were disturbing; it was as if whole Kashmir had emerged out at that very place. It was all noise, dust, nausea and fear. Everyone was narrating one or the other thing; the stories of lucid unjust. It was 5 A.M and we left.
“Summers and then rains…all were harsh on us.”
“Parted ways with winter; the year long friendship had a ghastly end. Then came summers; terrible ones. Summers were devastating, ruthless; showed no mercy. We all looked withered; children of exile. Years went by; summer and I became friends. Perhaps this is the friendship I never desired of but endured with it through these difficult years. Though our friendship has already taken so much of time to grow stronger; but one must admit the togetherness we have developed with time. We are inseparable; we are one now. Though my friend showed a bit of hostility in the beginning, but we have tried to reason now. He gave me many sleepless nights; all drenched with salt and water, but now we can easily manage each other’s presence. At the start, it was all like a belligerent situation; we both were confronting each other like hundred century old enemies. We both were new to each other. The fight in the early years was always at his side; I had to wait whole day inside the hellholes (Refugee Quarters) to let my friend pass by.
A cool breeze at times bought respite and scared away my friend.
An earthen pot for cold water…5 years surviving with it; Thanks to that pot. Prithvi Nath Dhar stopped eating…Glucose bottles all day. Makeshift bathrooms of plastic bags; Vijay laughs… We were at God’s mercy. When we went in (bathroom), “mosquitoes” few hundreds of them; we survived many dengue’s and malarias. Summer heat changed color of our skin. We had grown old. We were looking; all of us depressed with sullen faces shrouded in gloom.
Born in Kashmir, Raised and bought up in refugee camps, Sushant Dhar is presently documenting stories of exile. He studies Microbiology and is a doctoral fellow in the same from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. Sushant is a Kashmiri Hindu living in exile for last 25 years. He fears unjust. |