This post was originally published by Kafila, here.
As you celebrate yet another year of the glorious independence; the independence that was the beginning of an era of doom for most of us here, I must inform you that I was unable to get my morning bread. Sixty-seven is a big number and I’m sure the proceedings will be aplenty. I hope charm behind your lucky number 7 works and you have plenty of ‘ache din’. Somehow, I have my doubts but then again, I’m sure our definitions of good differ greatly. However it may be, I have one tiny request. Please let me eat my breakfast in peace.
It is still two days to go for the Independence Day Parade in Srinagar and I am one of the privileged few who live within a two-kilometer radius of the Bakshi Stadium, the place where the annual flag hoisting ceremony is held. Excess army is deployed all around and as in all such times, our local baker wasn’t allowed to open shop this morning.
As a child, I read your textbooks in school. I read about how Pinky and Shyam would go to their school for the flag hoisting on Independence Day and of course I’d wonder where this would happen. Independence day meant a crackdown or a curfew for all us kids here. Independence day meant that the morose army guy I hated to look at would stand at my gate, staring straight ahead with a blank, yet frightening constancy. Independence day meant my dedicated doctor of a mother had to walk to work for sometimes, they’d not even allow ambulances to ply.
The independence you celebrate to commemorate freedom has forever been associated with barbed wires on streets that restricted access to locations. It is ironical how roadblocks, surprise checks and general inconvenience is what I have forever associated with this independence. General inconvenience here also includes times where each one of the dozen, army-men on every street eyes you with contempt and suspicion. I snigger if you tell me we celebrate freedom on this day. To the many things that are already restricted here this day adds more.
This year, once again, Kashmiris will observe it as black day. Do not let that dampen your sprits though. My blessings are with you. I hope this year is good for you. I hope you find many more lovely destinations for yatras, in this valley. I hope many more tourists come with their bag and baggage in big buses spewing black smoke from cheap petrol and litter boxes of frooties carried all the way from across the Pir Panjal. I hope you bring in more buses of expressionless army men and all that you deem fit for us because frankly, we are apathetic now. We are so complacent that it won’t bother us because if it did, we probably do something to change it. Any promise for change here will get you one reaction; that of disbelief and skepticism.
I hope you have a good sixty-seventh year of Independence and your flag flies high and the mighty saffron in it, a tad brighter than usual this year. All I ask for, is my poor morning tea to be had with fresh bread and butter.