Life in Delhi can be a time of forgetting. The vivid details of my life in the Valley; the graphic violence, the daily fear, the excitements, defiances, larger causes slowly giving away to a humdrum whose narration is only more boring than itself.
Life at home was fast. Every moment was an event. Life often screeched past death. Well, if you pass in front of a trigger-happy trooper sticking his rifle’s nose out through the sandbag bunker, you pretty much are living on the edge. It was a game people played everyday. A gamble. A sheer-drop life. You could become a martyr anytime.
Here in Delhi, only its Blue-line busses were credible threats to life, unless you were picked randomly by Delhi police, whose Special Branch I always thought was an extension of Kashmir Police’s Special Operations Group. Perhaps they were special branches of each other, and all branches were just part of a tree called Occupation.
As I lived among fast-paced events in Kashmir memory seemed to have no big role. So many things were happening that one made no sense of what was going on. There was no larger story that could afford any meaning to these events. I accepted my life as ‘normal’. And who has stories about the normal! It was only by going away that memory became possible. Normal began to look abnormal. Stories, too, became possible. And, of course, we write stories from memory only. Events started falling into place and acquire meaning.
Back home people wanted freedom and independence. But beyond that freedom movement was a Javed Danny firing bullets in air in the cricket stadium to have an umpiring decision in his favour, or a KK warning his mother with dire consequences if she cooked the stupid lettuce again. Military was a ruinous CRPF picket housed in a local cinema hall, or the notorious sharp-shooter, perched on top of a hill, who shot many people walking down the streets below. The momentary aspiration of freedom came from being prohibited from taking apples from a local orchard occupied by Indian paramilitary troops. I had to see a bit of freedom to want it.
In Delhi, I found occupation. I saw it clearly. It was there, wrapped around all of us all the time. It explained a few things to me. Larger picture emerged. It is good to have that.
But then one has to confront the spectre of forgetting. And it is only in contest with the forced inducements of forgetting that memories take shape. Delhi is like opium. Occupation is opium. The Occupation’s occupation is to have me forget. Occupation has extended its vice grip to Delhi too. To me.
And this is where the hope lies for the story. The ultimate battle against occupation is one of memory against forgetting, of stories that must be told. And forgetting has its own defeat written in its being. By asking me to forget, it reminds me of what I have to forget. It brings back memories. I will never forget. More it asks of me to forget, more I will remember. More stories will flower. We all have stories. How is occupation going to deal with all that crap that will fly around? The day Kashmiris see a tiny bit of freedom, India will begin to roll back.