I had bad news for breakfast. The 12 year old kid who was in coma after being hit by pellets, died. He studied in New Bonvivant English School and his roll number was 29.
The curfews and the unbearable sadness of being a Kashmiri I can take; the despair I cannot. Even sleep is an alien now. When I cannot sleep or read, I watch movies. I reached for an old hard drive and watched the movie “Rabbit Hole”. Yet again.
There may be spoilers in the following paras, naturally.
Rabbit Hole is a very personal account of a couple’s dealing with the loss of their child. It is a slow progression of events – mundane, daily life occurrences, nothing dramatic – which brings forth the fault lines left behind by a personal tragedy. A tragedy for which no parent prepares.
Becca, the protagonist, is subdued – as indeed anyone mother would be after the death of her child. Danny was just four years old. Slowly, as the movie progresses she comes to term with her loss. She meets Jason, the high school kid who was driving the car that killed her son. It was an accident, brought on by the dog that suddenly ran out of the gate followed by Danny. Becca and her husband do not blame Jason, having accepted it as an accident. Becca’s brother Arthur had died when he was thirty of a heroin overdose. This creates a parallel which Becca detests – her innocent child who was killed in an accident and her mother’s son who at thirty died of drug abuse. Of the two mothers, who is the more pained?
When the toys of little Danny are all piled up in a corner, Becca asks her mother does the grief ever go away. No, her mother replies, it doesn’t go away.
It was at this moment that the question arose and framed itself in reference of Kashmir. Day after day, in the last sixty days, and in the past few years we have come across pictures of mothers in Kashmir wailing at the death of their children. India’s fancy weaponry has claimed the lives of many, many children in Kashmir. In fact, this immediately takes me back to the 90s, to the old black and white newspapers where white shrouds used to be stark against a forever clouded sky. Does this grief ever go away? Is it possible to move on and not blame – like Becca and Jason?
Someone once told me those who are gone are gone. The ones that are left behind will forever carry the cross: the kids those are maimed and blinded. The fair faces that are scared forever. The ones who will live with their injuries forever. It will be their parents who will suffer through this every day. For most, doctors say that the injuries will have a lasting impact and some will never be able to see again. While it is not settled what will happen next, Mehbooba Mufti, on her visit to New Delhi, audaciously asked the young girl who lost her eyes and face to pellet guns if she was angry with her. Photojournalist Zuhaib who lost one of his eyes to pellet fire broke down in a video interview asking what he had done to deserve this.
In their powerfully detailed book on Kunanposhpora, the writers say that the purpose of reopening the case is to keep the struggle for justice alive. If they don’t protest, the army men will repeat the same again and again. Someone has to stand for justice. In acknowledging the struggle of Kashmiri people the book concludes with the powerful line, “Remembrance is ours”. This is a very potent construct for the Kashmir context. Faced with a structure that aims to blow the public discourse in just one direction that suits the state reopening and re-examining cases like Kunan-Poshpora is a struggle in itself. The same can be said of the thousands of inquiries which the state started and forgot about in Kashmir. I am not sure if anyone keeps a track. Who wants to sit as an accountant on the dusty books of injustice? But there are those who have no other option. Parveena Ahanger whose son was taken by the Army in 1990 (and was ‘disappeared’) and who formed the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons still cries at each retelling of her tragedy. Its been 26 years – she hasn’t quit fighting. Neither have other members of her association.
The bridge over memory in Kashmir is a short one. Everyday is a grim reminder of what could not be forgotten in the first place. Junaid was 12 years old, standing outside the gate of his house when the Indian army murdered him. In 2010, Tufail Mattoo was going to tuition when CRPF fired a tear gas shell which hit him on the head. He died on spot.
For the rest of us, we will pick up pieces of life and continue, till the next wave crashes on the store and all wounds are opened up. Eventually. No one accounts for the loss of the living. The reluctance and political lethargy of the India and Pakistan continue to bring more misery and difficulties for us, the people of Kashmir. There seems to be no end to this!
In the end we are left with poetry and the romance of autumn, the thrill of the chinar and the enchantment of hope in an awfully sad world. That is Kashmir, and no, it never goes away. It becomes manageable. As Becca’s mother explains it, “like a brick in your pocket. You carry it around. You even forget it for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason, and there it is.”
(Pic: Screenshot from the movie “Rabbit Hole”)