It was a last stark reminder of the fact that in India wherever a Kashmiri is he is a ‘suspicious’ person. It shows that we will be discriminated and targeted till the day the Indians (troops) are on our soil or we are on theirs. You know at every step in Kashmir we are beleaguered, how we are stopped on any pretext. They have fun and we suffer, suffer the fact of being in the shackles of tyranny and slavery.
I remember the day when I had to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on April 25, 2011. I arrived at the Terminal 3 of the International Airport, Delhi. After bidding farewell to my father, I went inside (the first time I went inside the newly built Terminal 3). I was amazed and awestruck at the massive structure but also pitiful at the country which spends billions on airports though its 40 per cent people sleep with empty stomachs.
I headed to the Air Asia Counter. My documents were checked (amongst them lives the snake which I detest like nothing it’s called the Indian Passport). My documents were verified and approved. I was collecting my boarding pass, when an Immigration Officer came.
“Where are you going?” said the shadowy officer.
I looked towards him and saw a man in his forties, with inflamed eyes and the stink of a drunkard.
I replied, “I am going to Malaysia.”
“Hmmm, Can I check your passport?”
“Sure”, with a grin.
I remembered how his other counterparts in my homeland check my details and ID every time they wish to or want to show that “Kashmir is the Integral Part of India!” It was a normal thing to check the passport.
“Why are you going to Malaysia?” he said in a cold tone.
“I am going there for a visit.” (I sounded like the ancient rhetoric that has been played for ages.)
“Do you have relatives there?”
“Yes, I do. (your highness)
“Hmmm, you need to have 600 USD, you have them?”
“I said why? I have my return ticket with me?”
“Okay, where are you from?”
“I am from Kashmir.”
“Hmmm, you need to have 600 USD to travel.” While all the others passengers were let off and a little crowd watched our conversation.
“But I have the return ticket, I don’t need the 600 USD?”
“You must have it”
While he was advocating me about what was wrong, I kept mum. While as the rest of the people were embarked without being bugged, ah! I am a Kashmiri, have to keep bearing it till day we are not free. Even my friend got into the flight without any annoyances, we had same specifics.
“Okay fine, please be quiet, I will change the currency, fine???”
“Do you have the money?”
“Will try and arrange it”.
I looked down on his identity card. He shouted at me, “You want to complain to the authorities, go ahead”.
“I didn’t. I was just looking down,” I replied.
As the tears were coming in my eyes, among the people that I never liked and I never knew. I pushed my hand inside the pocket. As Allah protects me always, I found sufficient money but not 600 USD. Only five minutes for the counter to close.
“I got it,” shocked and dismayed the officer had no option but (to free me) to leave me.
With Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator in my hand, I walked to the waiting hall. Scores of Indians eyeballing the boy and the mountains on the cover; yes I am a Kashmiri and am very proud of it.
“Air Asia Flight to Kuala Lumpur now boarding,” announced the airline. The same man passes by and tells me, “It’s a part of my job”.
I walked the aisle, boarded the plane and left the memories of a nightmare. Next to me sat a warm old Australian lady.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from Kashmir.”
As the plane shot in the sky, I told myself, “One day I will return” and I remembered Aga Shahid Ali.
“We shall meet again, in Srinagar,
by the gate of the Villa of Peace,
our hands blossoming into fists
till the soldiers return the keys