Random Thoughts!

I leave my house and walk through the murky waters that have overflowed from the nearby drain after the slashing rain during the night. I tip toe to the main road through the numerous puddles, jumping onto the drain edge as a car passes by, avoiding being hit by a mud splash.

Only if the roads were prepared properly! Actually they were, two years ago, only to stay in shape for a month. The next month awakened the telecom and the waterworks people to place their new lines and dig everything up again. Now the road has to wait till all the other horribly bumpy roads of Srinagar are re-laid.  Infact what these departments do is just a preview to what the roads are eventually going to look like without any outer intervention. It takes only a few months for the roads to deteriorate, courtesy, the material and the effort put in the process of making them.  Also, there has to be a muddy edge left on all road sides, so that when it rains and vehicles move over it, all the mud comes on to the road, contributing to dust later on. And do I need to mention how dusty our city has become?

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My journey from home continues. I board a bus. The bus stops every ten meters, at the end of every lane emanating from the right or the left of the road. A distant pedestrian is an anticipated customer for the bus, so the bus decides to wait, amidst cries of “wastaa paksaa wyen”.  It turns out that the pedestrian is not going to board, but the driver continues his passenger hunt with even more fervor and enthusiasm. This continues, till the bus is a bit overcrowded, after which, if the driver is sympathetic to the travelers, the bus starts moving fast. However, any sight of a passenger is taken care of very well, with the bus coming to a complete halt. However, when someone has to get down, the bus has to stop a few meters away from the desired place. The traffic police as always ignore the overcrowded bus; probably imagine the bus to be filled with cattle. But wait, this does not happen during the traffic week. The policemen make sure that no bus is overcrowded in their vicinity, after which it is totally and absolutely permissible.

I manage to get down the bus, often managing to get change back from the bus conductor. If I am not that lucky, I happen to pay extra. Or a really nice bus conductor does not take any money, just to save himself the hassle of asking for change from other people. This all happens amidst the constant honking by the driver, and is followed up with the bus conductor running after the bus and either jumping in or hanging at the end of it. How safe!

In all the offices and business places in Kashmir, customer service is a term hardly heard of. If I have some work in the bank, I have to wait till the teller finishes his chat with his colleague, or finish some work for his friend or acquaintance. Or may be he is busy having his morning tea in office. And then if the teller gets done with all this, he might happen to ask me what I am standing there for. I manage to get my work done and carry on. If I happen to know someone at the bank, my work gets done even before I speak about it. Considering the usual processing that takes place within offices, I always prefer to have some acquaintance around. I recently applied for a passport, and if it was not for my cousin, I would not have got it in record time which actually should be the usual time for the whole processing to take place.

Often in garment shops, I find people hesitant to show stuff, just to save themselves the hassle of folding the garments again. So I make sure that I make them open only stuff which might fit my choice. Surprisingly this time in one of the garment shops, the attendant folded open all the dresses in the stack. And when I stopped him, just to save him some time and energy, he objected by saying that it was his job and those who avoid it are lazy and not prepared to work. Only if such attitude was more prevalent in Kashmir. Many a times the shopkeeper assumes that you are there just to look around and not buy anything. At other times, he assumes you are not going to buy expensive stuff and often replies rudely by saying, “these are expensive ones”. Something which I feel he should leave for the customers to decide.

I finish my daily chores and return back to the bus moving with the usual slow speed. If you are lucky your bus driver might race with his fellow driver, and you might get home in less than half the time it usually takes.

In all the events that take place in the course of the day, something is missing, something seems to have gone terribly wrong. Very minor things, which we tend to ignore, but if corrected would make our lives much better. I am not playing the blame game here. I am part of the same system, and I am responsible for it too. However, there is a lack of general consciousness about these little things. We all need to wake up.

The roads are bad, rains make them worse. You cannot even think of coming into my lane in an auto. If you do, make sure you have a strong spinal cord! No matter what you do and how hard you shout, the bus driver will not move unless he wishes to. Several times I have seen them moving slowly or stopping after every minute just to prove that he is the owner and if someone has to board the bus, he has to comply to his rules and wishes. In offices, you see people doing work at their own will, not thinking about the customers and their valuable time. Such things might be bearable in certain offices; all they do is to take a little bit of your time. But any such negligence in hospitals has often caused terrible losses. You have to plead the nurse to come and set the drip right, inject the patient. Even if she comes there, it never seems that she does the work wholeheartedly. It appears as if someone has forced her to the job. She comes and injects the patient without having the compassion often needed by the patients. That probably doesn’t help cure, but often helps in making the patient feel better. I have known of a case where doctors refused to operate an appendicitis case, just because they were tired of other surgeries they carried on during the day. Could they sleep while the other person was dying?

There are things we need to change in our system. Things we need to change at each and every level. You have to change, I have to change. We have to learn how to handle things. We have to learn how to make a good society, where we respect and value time. A society where we respect each other, each others opinions, ideas and thinking!

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Tragedy called Kashmir

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“Military presence usually involves custodial killings”, said my friend once. Probably it was easier for her to say that, since she never experienced it around her. She probably had seen something related to this on the news or probably seen it in some movie. In every second or third movie you see bad guys in police, capturing and killing innocents. Occasionally you see the efficient and honest police officer, who stakes everything to get stuff right in his department and in the society in general. Or you have a defiant protagonist, who goes against all odds to protect innocent civilians, often taking the law in hand. And all movies have a happy ending, with justice to the oppressed party. But it seems this happy ending is restricted to such movies only. In real life, there is no hero, no one to save innocents, at least not in the place where I live in.

 

Yes, I am talking about Kashmir. The essence of human rights has been lost years ago in Kashmir. “Life” probably has a different meaning in this land where the government itself has handed over draconian laws to the so called peacekeepers of the nation. The Indian military forces have caused havoc, brutally crushing human rights. No, I am not taking credit away from them for fighting wars, protecting borders, helping victims in natural disasters. Nor am I showing apathy towards them when they stand guarding places of the high officials under the constant fear of being hit by a bullet or being blown off. No wonder their life is not a bed of roses. But, if they are awarded for their gallantry, they need to be punished for their inhumane acts and murders. Innocent people often become victims of their outrage and indiscipline. But what is done against them? They are protected on the behest that the killed person was a member of a terrorist group. The truth shouted by the dead person’s near and dear ones echoes in the local papers and fades away. And yet again the military personnel escape punishment leading to an ever increase of human rights violations in the state. Punishment in fact is a far off thing to do; even suspension of such corrupt and erring officials does not take place. A life once lost cannot be brought back, and when it is an innocent then such death often gives rise to more retaliation and the buried anger explodes into desperate acts which often go against the law.

 

In the last seventeen years of trouble and turmoil that I have seen in Kashmir, I can clearly remember certain incidents which were brutal murders of innocents. The culprits as in most of the cases were never brought to court. Recently I was reading the book “Conflict in Kashmir” by Victoria Schofield. The author mentioned some incidents which involved people who were related to me in one way or the other – not necessarily through blood ties. It is amazing how each and every family in Kashmir has been through these rough patches. Either the victim is someone you know, or the witness is related to you. As a result you know that these incidents are not merely stories made up, they are sadly true with your relatives, friends, neighbors and other acquaintances being the witnesses or the victims.

 

The truth comes to us through one channel or the other. Printed in the local papers and absorbed in the hearts and minds of so many Kashmiris. Apart from the incidents being heartbreaking and distressing, the other sad thing about them is that they remain confined within the borders of the valley, with the national journalists doing no justice to them. The news is totally distorted and extracted of its essence by the time it reaches outside Kashmir. People are made to see and believe what the powerful men want them to see and perceive. The truth battles in Kashmir for days, months and years and finally gets buried in the numerous files lying in the offices. As a result the culprits get to continue their sabotage.

My brothers have been beaten up for no reason, some have even gone to jail for no reason whatsoever. But there are sisters and mothers in Kashmir who were not lucky like me. Their brothers were killed and labeled as terrorists. They became targets of the outrage of the gun holding men, protected and shielded by the state and the central government together. People in uniform have added to their stars by killing innocents in fake encounters. Detainees have been made to sign blank sheets of paper before being taken along and murdered in some remote corner of the valley. There have been eye witnesses of fake encounters, but those incidents have not been probed. Human shields have been used. Forced labor is a part of life for some villagers in Kashmir. Military has time and again killed children and villagers by ‘mistake’. Often deranged people are mistakenly killed. Women have been disrespected. Torture for the people of Kashmir has been both mental and physical. And yes every Kashmiri has been a witness to all such incidents. Every Kashmiri has suffered, and is still suffering.

The one who suffers knows it all. I sit here and feel for my fellow Kashmiri. I have been through a lot, but there are some who have been through worse. When will we get justice? Will such killings continue for ever? Can we not lead a normal life like other people? As I write this, I am sure there is some Kashmiri suffering for no fault of his. But the pangs of his suffering will only reach the minds of people who care for Kashmir. As for the ones who are painted with bias, Kashmir is just another news column! Sad world!