It was in 1989 that Rukhsana Yahya, 57, and Sarla Sahib, 58, friends for 13 years in Sir Syed Islamia School where they taught, when militant uprising started. Twenty five years later when the two talked again, it was like yesterday and the conversation ended with the promise to meet again.
“Aren’t you Sarla ji?” asked Yahya as the phone ring ended and the call was received in Mumbai. “Yes. I think you are Rukhsana from Srinagar,” replied Sahib.
Both friends lost contacts and addresses of each other when militancy took over every aspect of life in Kashmir in 1990s. It is through common friends in the same school that the two established contact again. They recalled names of friends and relatives as if facts from yesterday. Tear choked voices at both ends every time they informed each other about deaths of known faces, new births and marriages of relatives post the 90s.
“I never forgot Kashmir. I flip through albums to refresh memories of weddings we attended together, the picnics we went together and the happy teaching days,” said Sahib, now a housewife with both sons married and settled.
Yahya, a government teacher, sought a promise from Sahib, a resident of Habba Kadal who has never visited Kashmir since she left in 1990. “You have to visit Kashmir, my home. We will visit old friends together, the lanes and bylanes of the old city. Even the shops we shopped together from,” Yahya, a resident of Zaina Kadal, told Sahib on phone.
Hundreds of separated Muslim and Pandit friends like Yahya and Sahib are longing to talk to each other, to reconnect and live old memories.
The conversation between the two separated friends ended on a poignant note, reflecting Kashmir’s strong inter-community bond and longing to live together again.
“We are well off in Mumbai and have access to every luxury but my heart is not at peace even after 25 years. It cries out to return and have food together again. I miss the brotherhood we nurtured all those years,” said Sahib.