Boyhood in Kashmir

(I)

On a curfewed night
I was born
a son
to a mother who had lost five.

The first three years
were spent in curfew.

I was sent to school
during the fourth year
away from the embrace
of my mother.

I would seldom see my father
for he was away for work–
it would often be weeks before
I got to see him.

If only I had known
it was god helping us
live without his presence.

On a cold night in January,
he was home after weeks
when there was
an announcement.

“Every man is ordered to come out,
With their identity cards.”

My father left in a hurry
and he never came home–
he was taken away that night
and we never saw him.

My mother went looking for him,
she knocked on all doors
she went from camp to camp
she went to every jail there was.

She visited all shrines,
and prayed for his safety.
She went to parks and markets
hoping to see him in crowds.

But that was not in her fate.
My mother,
now a half-widow,
worries for me.

(II)

Now I am 15
and there are
shoot at sight orders
given outside.

Everyone stays inside
worried about the knock
worried about the crackdown.

I see kids
protesting outside
with no fear of death
in their eyes.

A rakshak comes
and fires teargas at the kids–
they scatter in all directions.
Except one.

I read the report the next morning
“12-year-old killed after
being hit by a tear gas shell.”

(III)

Being 17 in Kashmir
is difficult now.

There are checkpoints
and barricades
and barbed wires.

Surviving every day is hard.
There are reports of encounters every day.
there are dozens of people killed.
My mother fears too much now.

I leave for school one day
and there is an encounter
I am caught in the wrong place
at the wrong time.

I see blood on the roads
and on the walls.
I try to take a different route.

I am walking through an alley
when a bullet hits me.
I bleed to death,
slowly and painfully.

In my final moments,
I think of my mother
and everything she did for me.
Is this how it was supposed to end?

I die, just like many others.
I die with no hope of justice.
I am just a body now.

Sauleh, who goes by the pseudonym Chilaikalaan, is an 19-year-old from Srinagar. He is pursuing his bachelor’s in Psychology, Sociology, and English. He spends his free time reading and writing. You can read his other works at medium.com/@chilaikalaan.

Featured image: imad Clicks / Unsplash