JK Bank

As the tensions between India and Pakistan grow further, Beeba Bano, 80-year-old, tells The Kashmir Walla about her friends, she met once in Shahdara shrine.

Will there be a war? I thought. What will be left then? Destruction? The tensions between India and Pakistan is evident. I can see it on the streets. It has been a few days and I haven’t slept well; worries have made my heart shallow. Every time, I hear the airplanes hovering in the sky, I see it as a sign of war.

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But, a war with whom? The other side? Ah, the other side.  But, where? Line of Control (LoC). These noises, this war-like air, the mention of the LoC remind me of a fortunate night in the summers of 1981 when I met two ladies, who were sitting next to me at Shahdara Sharif, a religious site in Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir.

My husband, the then inspector in the Fisheries Department, was posted in Rajouri those days. I requested him in the morning to take me to Shahdara, and do shab, because the next day we had to leave for Kasheer (Kashmir).

I remember a large number of people had assembled at the site that day. I saw two ladies, a few steps ahead of me, who were staring at me like anything. When our eyes met – they smiled.

One of them came to me and asked, “are you from Kashmir?”

“‘Yes,” I replied with a smile.

Both of them came, sat beside me and started talking. As it appeared, Sakeena and Gudiya, were their names. The love and affection were evident on their faces, and their every word struck my heart.

We began to talk about our respective places and suddenly Gudiya, 22-year-old hailing from Mendhar village of Poonch, lying close to LoC, wearing frock shaliwar-dress, said, “situation never gets normal from our side. We fear coming out of our homes. And with time, it has become a routine.”

With the settling time, the conversation became more personal and we talked about our respective cultures. Gudiya had a loving family but distressed one; she told me, “we live under the shade of guns, but my family, they keep trying to keep us safe in every situation.”

Sakeena and I shared a silent bond, and suddenly our eyes met, we smiled, and soon the tears rolled down. But escaping the tears, Sakeena, hailing from Buflaiz, stood up and got some makai chouchi from the langar.

“try these,” she said, while handing me the food, and added, “aaj khushi ka din hai, aj dosti ka din hai. Koi ansun nahi dalega.” (Today is the day of happiness and friendship. Nobody will cry)

It was a happy night. I felt so special being served by those beautiful souls till the morning light came and everything else faded. People were lively again, it was like Shahdara got its life back; as if the crowd was cheering about the bond we built overnight.

The time to depart was at the doorstep. There was almost no way to be in the contact. Communication technology was only craving for space; Sakeena, with whom I shared a  silent yet powerful bond, took out her silver ring and gave it to me.

“It’s expensive, I can’t take it,” I hesitated, she looked at me, and said, “not more than the friendship we created.”

We hugged and both of them promised me, if God wills, they will come to see me once. Now that the war drums are again beating, I can recount more than 25 years but I still have those little memories with me.  

I don’t know where are they; how they live? But I do miss them. Today, I am have seen more than 80 years of my life and might be dying soon, but I have always cherished the conversation we three had and will continue to do so.

My husband died 15 years back, if he would have been alive, I might have gone to see them, ask them, “how are you?” Now, I am desirous to see them — if they are alive — and when I would meet them, I will tell them about Valley.

No one among us believed in war. We three were from different families, living amid conflict, but that day, love was in the air. Amidst the crowd — away from the borders — the most peaceful memory craved its existence.