Childhood Blues continue to haunt
January 1990, I had just started to crawl when communal forces broke legend long relations and compelled one of the oldest civilized communities to leave the saffron valley.
Along with my parents, I traveled 350 kilometers in a fiat car from south Kashmir to city of temples, Jammu. A deafening silence kept filling each passing kilometer. Moving towards south of Jawahar tunnel, nature started adjusting its color for an undesirable change. Slowly the chinars turned into pines and then finally eucalyptus. Mercury started expanding. As soon as we reached Hari palace, I woke up in my mothers lap saying “mummy tresh” (Mother I am thirsty, give me water).
Months passed on and my growing steps saw the lines stretch on my father’s forehead. Finances started bothering us on each day of the calendar. Everyone around was searching for any possible keyholes of survival. I remember, each morning some or the other fellow being used to come to the door shouting- ‘paksa relief commisionery’ (‘let’s go to Relief commissioner’s office’). No one realized that this relief commisionary would become a parliament for minority section of Kashmir.
As men tried their luck with such authorities, the women too fought their share of struggle. Forced to bargain for vegetables everyday, the female folk tried to adjust a home budget that had inadequate amount in the first place. Monj – Haakh (Knol Khol), a leafy vegetable was in maximum demand. What started with one rupee is today sold at Rs 30 at vendor price. Refusing to alter at least this cultural attachment, we as a community still purchase it with equal charm. Monj-haakh is served hot on our plates daily.
The climate has never been friendly to Jammu especially the summer season. But at times it became as good as spring to me. Every year my Delhi based aunt would get me toys during the vacations. Though summer in Jammu is synonymous to a hot tandoor (hand made oven) but that anticipation for toys, at least for a few moments overshadowed our natural calamity. Today as I reminisce of my childhood days, toys remind me of Sharma Ji- our landlord- who never allowed me to play in the house he owned. He often complained to my parents about me, considering me a noisy child. That b*****d never understood that kids play at this age and when they play they are supposed to make noise. Like my childhood rights snatched in Kashmir, Jammu too did not allow me to celebrate my innocence.
Spending such a shackled childhood left undesirable remarks in my mind. I started believing this is the best that a human being deserves. Perhaps this is the kind of life for all of us. Until, my mother started narrating me stories that I should have faced myself, but fate had other plans. She was, rather relieving her bolted memories upon me. She used to (she still does) start with ‘Kasheri aous ase…’ (In Kashmir we used to have…). Those real life happy incidents of valley were hard to vision in my mind. I deemed them as any other fairy tale I knew about. I still try and force myself to imagine my mother being served by 3 servants. Her references to the past are authentic, but today my mother is pushing herself, beyond her physical strength to serve all of us without any help.
When I entered into my teens, the financial troubles began to fade away to a certain extent, but those luxurious aspirations were only at an imagination stage. Due to my hard work and family’s support, I was selected in two of the best schools of Jammu; in fact I topped the entrance examinations. However I could not enroll myself in neither as a huge fee was not affordable.
As time rolled by, memories got sliced into the good and bad. The bad memories have now forced me into an unshapely adulthood, making me feel that neither did the past bring us anything healthy nor has the future anything good to hold.
A desire to relive those innocent days is increasing every day. I know that this is no possibility and I hope it’s not because of material treasures that now I have begun to acquire. I hope this article is not a sudden burst of emotions. I guess it is only an incomplete childhood….
Well, whatever it may be but “yem fir gindha beiti” (This time I want to play)
The writer Ranish Hangloo is studying journalism at the AJK MCRC, Jamia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org