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‘I am turning into a mental wreck’

As continuous curfew and shutdown has turned Kashmir into a semi-jail, Peerzada Ashiq, in a first person account from Srinagar says "I want to see the Sun shining at Lal Chowk, Connaught Place of Srinagar, again".

india Updated: Aug 04, 2010 22:28 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times

The Internet, particularly social networking sites, is the only breathing space as continuous curfew and shutdown has turned Kashmir into a semi-jail for the last 55 days.

Except rare adventurous attempts - dodging stones hurled by protesters, swinging batons of security forces and saving oneself in the nick of time by negotiating sharp curves in alleys to avoid stone-laden hands - to reach office, I, like most of the Valley residents, am confined to my house. A stroll of 500 metres is all I can afford in the day. That too, only at dusk. Protesters and security forces too take some breather in the evening after a tiring day.

Branding and bragging about being a journalist with a Delhi-based newspaper in front of the security forces has hardly helped me getting a safe passage.

"New Delhi is responsible for the mess in Kashmir. Your follies. You tweak the Kashmir situation. I will not allow you to pass. Go write whatever you want to. Somebody's follies and batons have been handed in our hands," said an angry and nervous CRPF jawan once when I tried to reach office, only seven kilometre away from my locality.

My family, like others, is facing crisis at the domestic level with the visuals of gore, images of draped young bodies, angry fists and sounds of staccato gunfire showing no signs of waning away. The tea is without milk twice a day. Kahwa, a kind of tea without milk, is our afternoon drink now. No more extra cups of tea. There is already a cut on amount of rice being cooked. Risking life and defying curfew at times pays and one gets Kashmiri bread for breakfast. Otherwise try stored snacks.

Kitchen garden has proved a boon in the time of crisis. Traditional vegetables, those that grow on their own and are no more cooked in the modern-day kitchen, are back on the menu whether you like it or not. Options at the dinner table are shrinking each passing day. Cornflakes, eggs and white oats are already off the breakfast table.

It has been weeks since I have seen relatives, friends and those known faces at Srinagar's coffee shops. Same space, same faces are even shrinking sense of privacy. Nitpicking over small issues are on between my parents and is the best way to pass time. From overflowing tank to the amount of salt in dishes can create ruckus at times. In jail, even prisoners who are best friends do fight at times.

I can see myself turning into a mental wreck. But surfing the Internet for fourteen hours has kept my senses intact and of course the daily reportage.

With no class work and assignments, my cousins are directionless about their curriculum. Exams seem a distant dream now. Unrest has put a blind on them and they have not been able to focus on studies. News and counting toll of the day on the television is more important than discussing career options.

Besides losing the geometry of my mind, my kidneys, it seems, have swollen due to a erratic sleep regimen and working on the laptop. Puffy eyes and migraine are the order of the day, like most of my neighbours'.

The sound of protesters shouting slogans from the mosque speakers have crept into my dreams now. They resonate all night.

I want to see the sun shining at the Lal Chowk, Connaught Place of Srinagar, again.

First Published: Aug 04, 2010 19:17 IST