“42 deaths later, I am still at my friend’s house hoping for things to get better.”

By Areeba Zainab: My exams were over, and I was more than happy as it was time for me to go home- my Kashmir. It was a sleepless night, as I could not wait to see my new-born niece. Going home after a long period of 6 months, it was surely something I was looking forward to. But then reality crashed, and my facebook newsfeed read “Burhan wani, the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen killed in an encounter”.

All of my excitement died for I knew what would follow- chaos. I thought to myself: “What use is going back home now? To see the riots and barbaric killings of the youth there? To get locked in my room and be deprived of the internet and other basic facilities? No. This was not my plan.”
But I mustered some hope and started packing my belongings. I reached Srinagar airport at 12:00pm and was welcomed with a curfew. My home being in south Kashmir, I knew there was no chance of me reaching safely without taking a bullet as toll. I tried contacting my family repeatedly, but the call wouldn’t connect. The ringing in my ears grew louder as my heart slipped into oblivion; I started crying helplessly. Somehow, I managed to contact my friend who lives nearby the airport, and she came to pick me up.

So here I was! Safe, yet scared and away from my family. 70 kilometres away, my family had no clue about my whereabouts. The longing; how much I wanted to contact them and ensure them that I was safe. After a whole day passed, my phone rang, and my heart skipped a beat. I picked up the phone in a jiffy. It was my brother calling me. His voice was shivering in joy. I couldn’t control either. We both cried on the phone as he said: “conditions are not so favourable over here, but don’t worry sister, I will come pick you up even if it means putting my life at risk”.
I didn’t want to be selfish and told him not to take any unnecessary risk. I ensured him that when the situation will improve, we will meet and meet in good health, even though, I wanted to see him and hug him forever. All I could do for now was hear the sound of agony and watch ambulances make constant rounds every few hours. It was heart wrenching when the news reported that the toll is increasing. I could feel my heart sinking after every breaking news on the television screen. I closed my eyes and prayed with a broken heart “yaa Allah, keep my family safe, keep Kashmir safe. No more deaths. No more bloodshed”

Time passed and I grew sadder and lonelier. My friend tried to cheer me up and made every effort to make me laugh, but she somewhere knew it was not easy for me. Not at all. My friends from the college called me up and I could feel the hatred in their voices. One of them shouted, “Indian army helped you during the floods, why aren’t you guys cooperating with them”. All this seemed so meaningless to me, so pointless when hundreds of us were dying every day, and I was living through every moment with the fear of losing someone dear to me. Everything stopped making sense.

42 deaths later, I am still at my friend’s house hoping for things to get better. Praying. Looking at my phone screen, hoping it might ring again, and I will hear from my family. It has been eight days now, I am still sitting by the window, waiting for my brother to come and take me home. Being home was never this hard before. I am home but I am not. So many untold stories like mine, but who cares?


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