I Am Kashmir!

Why don’t the world let the Kashmiri people have their freedom? This was the question that my daughter who is just fifth grader, has asked me the second time in this week. She is a charming child who is often found playing around with her dolls or toys. Perhaps, continuous breaking news aired on the news channels since the August 05 have made her thinking about it in a serious vein. For a moment, I got startled. I was already wondering at her first question that she posed another question to me, “Is it a very difficult thing for the world to give them their freedom? By the time, she came to sit on the same sofa where I was sitting and reading a book. I could not resist to smile and pat her cheeks with my hand but she like any stubborn child of her age, held my hand in her small hands and asked the same question with an addition, why did you not get to them the freedom? She then said ahead, “You are a soldier too, you say always we are Kashmir.” I then closed the book. I took my daughter in the arms, kissed on her forehead and then began to speak. “Yes my darling, we all are Kashmir. I am Kashmir. You are Kashmir. This whole Pakistan is Kashmir. They are our brothers and sisters and they are occupied there, and have been seeing the violence since the decades because enemy thinks that this way they have won but see they have failed in all the ways. And you will see them liberated very soon.” My daughter listened this serious matter attentively. I looked her innocence lovingly that reflected through her beautiful-sparkling eyes. Then, I took her off from my lap. She saw me for a moment more and then she went away to see her flowers that she grows in the garden. She was contented, at least she has got the answer. I saw her going out from the TV lounge.

She left the room but I was left in a complete state of grief. My little daughter has exactly spoken what my own feelings are for Kashmir. She has given the voice to the same questions that had been my own grievances since ages and especially from the moment I wore the uniform. I have always felt an acute feeling of indignation that the decades have been gone by but none of the world’s stakeholder and the so-called care taker of peace could bring the justice to the innocent people of this valley. I picked up my book, marked the page and left to keep it on my writing table. I had a meeting to discuss the same issue with the friends about the article 370 being revoked by the cross-border-State officials. Later, the day was spent in the long serious-discourse. There, we all friends were on the same page that this repeal of the article 370 is to show another oppressive-hegemony over the innocent population of the valley. In evening, I was back to home and then slept earlier.

I am settled in a city now. Throughout my service, I have been posted in different areas of the country. My service-years have spent mostly in the mountains, in the barren lands and around the LOC. I still remember the zeal that I had experienced while serving at the borders. I never felt so elated with the fullest spirit of patriotism other than the time when I stood there at the LOC around Neelam River. I made a remarkable career and it remained awarded and rewarded as well. I had performed all the soldiery duties and tasks well. No moment or point came in my career where I was reminded to be vigilant on account of the identification of any dereliction in the course of the performance. Yet! I often think there was one big task remaining from my side. And each passing year this realization grew the stronger. This! Yes! Kashmir!

In the early morning hours; I was up and have got engrossed in the cluster of my thoughts about the life, fate and this world. It’s a usual time and habit too when I do this exercise to refresh my mind for taking the day-start. Each morning, life itself inspires me to begin a new start with a hope for the good that I can do to myself and to all the people connected with me. At every dawn, I would say the gratitude for one thing in particular for having worn the uniform and to have served my Motherland. I always felt honoured in wearing it. I adored the uniform for one reason that I was one of the blessed sons of this sacred land who has spent the youth fully to serve it. All this bring me happiness everyday but suddenly I took a deep sigh, the same pain erupts in my heart, deep and piercing one. It’s the pain every time that I have always felt for Kashmir. Yes! My Kashmir.

Struggling with thoughts about the recent brutal events in Kashmir, I got ready for the office. I walked down the foyer to come out of my home. I stood on the street for a while to breathe. I could feel the freshness of air due to the latest spell of rain some hours ago. The rain has been pouring the same beautiful, trees were jostling in the air happily but my heart still sinks recalling the questions of my little daughter. This feeling of anguish increased and I just got an urge to go for the call. I had no idea what was happening with me but I decided to go. Instead of my office, I took another route.

After half an hour I set off for Neelam Valley towards Azad Kashmir. Within four hours’ long drive, I was reaching at the bank of Neelam River. I pulled over my car at a side. I stepped out of the car. For some seconds, I had a feeling that I have come here out of any trance. I sat there on one corner of the bank and felt as I have sat in the lap of the Motherland. It was the same feeling like of any lost child who embraces his mother for the reunion. I looked up to those lush green mountains encompassing the peaceful valley, those topping trees and glorious-azure sky around. All were the same that I saw in the youth time. In the mixed moments of union and grief, tears came out from the eyes thinking that this exotically-beautiful-valley across the river is still in the hands of those dirty hands that leave no option to soil its beauty. Those dirty hands are still there to devastate the modesty that this valley carries in the divine kind of beauty. I sat there for some time in silence. I kept looking around in a state of wonderment. Then I stood up to walk around the valley.

The valley was so serene that it took me in its mesmerizing captivity. Down in the pit of hills, I found some houses. I went ahead to see if I could find any people around there. I saw an old woman sitting there in her courtyard. I went straight to her house. She was busy working there. I entered the courtyard while taking the permission, seeing a uniformed man, she got up immediately. I paced my steps and held her arm and helped her sit again to resume the work. I greeted her and that mother gave me many prayers in return. She asked, “Son what has made you to come here? I looked towards her, and then replied. “I just wanted an escape and spend some time in contemplation for searching something so I came here.” The old lady who must be wise enough, caught me upon saying this and asked again with more inquisitiveness, what is that to search for? I spoke then, “Dear mother that occupied valley across the river has brought me here. In my youth time, at this side of Neelam River. I had been patrolling in many nights when the enemies threatened us here by the habitual shelling.” I stopped for a while and then spoke more, “I had stayed up here in this valley during all those nights like any active nocturnal who would be ready for any pre-emptive strike even upon sensing the enemy’s mischievous attempt.” I took a pause again then said more, “Today’s morning, like my usual routine, I set off from home to go to the office but I decided to come and see it.” She stopped working with the mortar and pestle. She was crushing some spices in them and asked me lovingly, “What is then troubling you my son? I looked towards her and then again saw those mountains across the river and replied. “I can’t be at ease thinking that there are my brothers and sister across the river and the other side of mountains. All of them face the brutal violence. My sisters there are at the mercy of those wolves who are hungry of their honour. They all are hungry, unarmed and detained in their own houses. There is no normal life there.” Hearing this, the old lady face turned saddened too. The melancholy was all over her face. She took a sigh and spoke, “Yes! Son it is like this. They are helpless in the clutch of those merciless enemies.” I then spoke abruptly, “I can’t have peace anywhere now. I feel that I could not do enough in my life.” She interrupted at once, “No! No, son who has said to you that you have not done enough? Look! Didn’t you do your part of the assigned duty with the fullest vigilance? Didn’t you stand or patrol here like a wall of rock against the enemy and its guns? Didn’t you become the cause for them to step back, to silent their guns and made them to go away? She then asked me, “Answer my son.” Her questions jolted me. I thought for a while and I replied, “Yes! I did all those duties vigilantly.

The old lady continued speaking more, “Son! In our lives we come for spending time in this world, to perform the duty and to give the garb to the purpose that we are meant wearing. We are destined indeed, and our endeavours are ordained by the Divine Force. Yet! There is always a thirst remaining in us to search more, to do more and to go meeting the extreme-most line of the intent that we grow in our hearts for one’s passion. It happens the same with you now.” I was amazed to listen all this from her. I felt a genuine gratitude to her. She further spoke, “Soldiers go for the duty when the call comes down upon them from the Heaven. Then the crown of martyrdom comes also to be ornamented on their heads. It is a feat written in their fate that comes in the way when it is the time to show the real power to the enemy. This call searches and paves the way on its own. You must have been showing feats at many fronts. May be, these mountains in front of us will be your last call, may be these will bring you back here.” Right on that moment, the noon time prayer-call goes in the air. We both stopped talking then. The prayer-call reverberates among the mountains and it had never felt so inviting to me. It felt going right in my soul. I saw those mountains had more attraction to me then. I stood up and requested to leave. I said thanked to the old lady. She handed over to me some bread and vegetable curry to eat on my way back to home. While I was sitting in the car, she said, “Son! You have the intention, you have an urge. Trust me your call will come to you by itself so don’t search it like this.”

Next day, I was sitting in the office. I was sad hearing about the loss of innocent loss of lives in the result of violation of LOC by the enemy. I thought to watch some more news during lunch hour. Suddenly, one junior officer approaches me to see some officials at the Headquarter. I reached there and got to know that I have been a given the command of a battalion that will be deployed at the LOC in Neelam Valley. The old woman’s words echoed in my mind immediately, “Your call will come to you by itself.” I felt my eyes were brimmed with the tears. It was a moment of gratitude and jubilation both.

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I stand here again-uniformed, armed, and resolute. I have definitely come here on the call. I look up to these lush green mountains that surely have invited me to show some real feats in the pursuit of freedom. I will not go back now, until the dawn of freedom. I have lived here but my soul has been travelling there across the river. I am Pakistan but my one part is there in Kashmir. And that one part gives me the call to go. This heart has got the call and it keeps beating-saying,
I am Kashmir!

-Asma Ishaq.