People would call me Jan Soab, they still do, but with some suffixes added like Janti or Janatgaar. I left my body last Saturday. Since people believe that time heals everything, my last night in this odd world passed in a hospital where I was kept till morning to subside the grief the news of my sudden death would bring to my closed ones. Since Sunday, I am in the womb of earth. Being dead does not hurt but dying did.
On Saturday late afternoon, when my bike collided with a passenger van due to my unskilled riding and God’s will, three of us (Majid, Aijaz and I) forcefully fell off the bike and struck with concrete, thrusting on each other. There, I lost my consciousness and my tongue also betrayed me because I fell first and consecutively the two over me. As I fell, my ribs dipped into my lungs, my legs and back were crushed, my bones shattered and my mouth filled with blood. But thank-god, my complexion was safe. When I knew I would die, an incredible feeling of regret filled me. Just within an hour I succumbed to death.
During this unconscious hour I don’t know what happened to me and to my two stupid friends. However, I returned to my consciousness by an undefined shock when my soul started to leave. At that time, two tears rolled down my cheeks. In substitution of my mute tongue, my heart uttered the kalima. I felt relieved during the moment of departure; my arrival to this side was soothing, like the dream of seeing oneself asleep. But I miss my body because I can no longer play any role in this uneven world; in quarrelling with my sisters; in argument with my dad; in skirmish with my mother; in teasing my elder sister and in the act of extravagance. At the time of my soul’s departure, I missed my beloved who once – at the moment engrossed in the blind pleasures of love –had said that she would die if anything untoward happens to me.
Later, I saw the flashback of what had happened to us. At first we were shifted to the district hospital in one cab, our broken legs hanging outside the cab. After that, from the district hospital we were shifted to SKIMS (the only hope of the suffering people of the South but ironically it is in central Kashmir, Srinagar – at about 50 miles distance) in an ambulance. At Awantipur I passed to the Aalam-e-Barzakh. As I watched from there, everyone in the ambulance was in complete melancholy, frustrated and sighing in despair. They all, including my mother, had an intuition of my death. Many angry men who couldn’t bear this all, cursed our parents for their indifference in our upbringing as if their own children had never enjoyed a ride. On the other hand, my other friends were assuring their hearts that we will live and they will tease us, in future; how we were lying parallel to each other with shattered bodies, although they knew that in my case it was more than unconsciousness. Whatever prayers they all had memorized since their birth they were whispering.
My mother was holding my hand and meanwhile losing thick tears and making Nazr for my already dead body’s survival. She was just staring at my face, even when someone tried to mitigate the ominous condition under auspices of faith and common sense she wouldn’t take her eyes off me. Perhaps her hand had felt my cold wrist. Perhaps she had felt the gestures of disappointment of others. She, at that moment, was present in all dimensions of time, present; which was cruel, future; which she didn’t want to know and past; which revolved round me. She thought of the blissful moments, when I was born. She had longed for a male child and this time, God had accepted her Nazr and gifted her with this treasure which was now lying dead before her. She thought, as if, I was born yesterday. As if, I was not in a moving ambulance but in a cradle, oscillating to and fro. As if, she was singing, “allah, allah, allah” to me. She didn’t want to think but couldn’t help herself; probably it was the abrupt change from everything to nothing. She was crumbling inside as she watched my long hair flourishing by every gulp of air whooshed through the windows like all mothers of the 1990s (instigation of revolution) martyrs I had seen when I was a kid. She thought how my Di brushed it every morning since the day I commenced my creeping. Consequently, everything from my cradle to the hour before I had left home came round and round in her mind. ‘No, it is not reality. It is a nightmare, oh God! Have mercy. Please save my child’.
If, by chance, she took her eyes off me, she would look pathetically at my wounded friends, who in turn; though not in full senses, blood oozing from their wounds, stole glances at me in the crowded ambulance through the gaps inertia created by shaking people from their places. She thought consistently but she was in the depths of despair as the ambulance reached SKIMS. But I am not feeling pity for mother because there are thousands if not lacs of souls around me whose mothers have seen them dying since the revolution. We reached the hospital at Maghrib, when I saw angels escorting every praying man and woman to mosques, shielding them against bad deeds which they would have done otherwise. Likewise, mother was stopped from entering, not by the angels or by hospital authority but by the people of my village who had escorted us, in order to keep her ignorant about the inevitable result albeit for the night. However, all those people were cursing me and holding me accountable for what was going on, while ignoring the fact that it was God’s will.
Doctors checked my pulse and wrote down on the first page of my newly allotted file: Brought Dead. Every escorted person was now forced to listen what they already knew but didn’t want to believe. Spiritual touch of the vale had made them wait for some biblical miracle but of no avail. Incessant tears and cries gathered many devastating men and women, who had accompanied other patients of the emergency ward, to grieve first and then console the escorted. Our friend, Fahim, who was outside with my mother, came inside. But when he saw, what he only once experienced before, when his uncle was martyred by the Indian army, he fainted. He shoved aside the medical assistant who tried to wrap my body in a white sheet, took my face in his hands and wept for long on my dilapidated chest. He got up all at once, gave up wiping his tears as he knew his eyes would not dry so soon and announced that no one will disclose anything outside, where my mother had been petrified every minute the dead bodies were being removed out of the hospital. On the other hand, my father was told that it was not so serious and he had sheepishly believed. My cousin, Showkat, who was taken aback by the news, phoned home and told my elder cousins about the demise. They came, took mother home and also took charge of the body, my body. I don’t miss that paper-garment of existence everyone wears and tries to protect every instant they live.
However, situation was no different at home. Everyone, notwithstanding the now confirmed baleful situation, was whispering the prayers and expecting some miracle to happen. No one dared to tell my family the news they were about to receive in the morning. Thereby, no one in the village slept that night. My Di had called from Dehradun, where she was pursuing her masters, and had enquired if I was okay. She had been reluctant in asking them to give me the phone as she had a nightmare yesternight. If I find Sigmud Freud here, I will tell him that the origin of the dreams isn’t only in living body’s mind but elsewhere as well. Doubtless, the nightmare was God’s signal to my sister as brother-sister relation is an analogue for nail and flesh of a same finger in Kashmiri language. She had been asking them that why my phone was switched off? But she was scolded for her illusions. She hung up while cursing herself for pursuing education out of the princely state.
For whole night, people remained insomniac. Some, especially ascetic attributed, doing Tahjud. Some were cursing the night for being so long. Some were mourning on social websites. Some were puffing hookah and cigarettes. Some were absorbed in thinking about how inauspicious the day had been and how blurted the morning will be. Some were promising themselves that they will never ride a bike. Some were busy in their past reminiscences with me. However, for not too long they had to wait, as every desolate night ends with a dawn; though brutal, barbarous and unpleasant. At 7:00 am my body reached home where people were waiting to bid me farewell.
Just within an hour, my body was purified and loaded in a coffin. Sweets, dates, walnuts were showered upon me. As I hadn’t given them the opportunity to celebrate my wedding, my aunts sang songs of despair and desolation; as if they were mocking a typical Kashmiri marriage. They glued my right little finger with henna. They scented my shroud with the perfume. How foolish of them, why they would do so; I didn’t like treating me like a bride-less groom. Finally, I was taken to the last ride; to the funeral prayers and then to the graveyard. Through every alley, my coffin passed, contingents of youth were found weeping incessantly, women were on their toes watching me from rooftops, attics and inside their fences, concealing their crying mouths as well as wiping their noses with their head scarves.
However, I missed ‘Di’. Despite being my closest in the family, only she wasn’t there. She was on her way. She was told that our grandma died, as old peoples’ death hurt us a little due to generational gap and due to their tautological behavior which make us restive of them. Isn’t it? Di had bought me 125 shampoo sachets the day before she left Dehradun for 120 days. More than half were yet unused and she had to come back. Di reached after three hours after my burial and found out grandma unfortunately alive inside the tent in the compound. Although it was not her fault at all, grandma felt sorry for her existence. Di screamed at once, “ jan soab katti? Oh! God what a calamity, jan soab, jan soab….”. She felt on the ground, wildly tossing her body on the earth like an energetic child who hadn’t had enough sleep. She screamed my name again and again. My father, who was lying on porch amidst elder and middle aged men, came crying and with his arms spread and held her daughter. Ladies made space for both of them and whispered to each other that let them cry their hearts out. Eagerly waiting to see the reaction of Di on receiving the news, villagers- mostly some whimsical sadists -came out of their houses and assembled in our backyard to watch the human suffering. Mother, exhausted by consistent wailing, hugged Di and could only moan. Everyone just repeated one sentence, “What can we do? It is God’s will”. Strange creation humans are, they would never pay heed to such statements when they are left with even a little choice but when they have no choice their nerves would sooth with every little thing they have never given a thought throughout their lives. In the meantime, Di had a stroke and she was taken inside. People disintegrated and went home.
Again the night was like hellish for the village in general and for my kin in particular. Moreover, it is only during night, one is with himself, alone in solitude, giving thought to what his eyes had seen, to what his ears had listened and to what his heart felt during the day. That night, my father saw me in a dream and he stood up from his bed, opened the window and said, “Come my son, please come in now”. Since then, he would often repeat the same thing while everyone is sleeping. I think he got this feeling by constantly thinking about our being estranged most of the time I was alive. While I was living, he didn’t decipher his love to me and after my death how come would it benefit him now. Moreover, I am not unhappy for their grievances for it is not my fault at all. My time was over and when I am with the innocuous creatures here why I should long for the oppressed life of the vale. Father accompanied me to the grave, dropped first handful of earth on my body while mentioning to God, “He was Yours and towards You we returned him”. After returning home, he got the feeling that all he is left with is daughters and he became more conscious about his loss. I am afraid, he will spoil their lives too as he has no one to blame and no one to assert his responsibilities on but they.
Equally, on the same day, Aijaz and Majid received their part of pain. They both had surgeries on their fractured limbs plus many stitches elsewhere on their bodies. Aijaz had got clots inside his brain, so he had two surgeries. But they are still oblivious about my death. Could they proceed in their lives whenever they think about the incident? Could they live with the thought that once three of us went out on a ride but only two returned? Could they face my mother, my father and my sisters? Would they feel guilty for being alive? Let them deal with it, after all there should be some cost of being alive as well.
Next day, a policeman came to take signatures from our families on the report he had already made. The report, as expected, had been perverted as, “….a speedy Van no. AG 1994 hit the bike no. BD 2012 in which a teenager was killed and two seriously injured…” While going through the report, commendably, all the three families refused to sign. Ultimately, I gratified the merciful God for at least evacuating the van-driver from the brutal vice of vengeance.
(This piece is dedicated to a friend and all those who ran for errands and never came back.)
Khalid Fayaz Mir graduated from the Aligarh Muslim University in 2013. Currently, he writes and plays cricket.