The Curse of Memory
I should have forgotten as soon as it happened. Memories can haunt. Become nightmares. Forgetting is a blessing. I envy those who master the art of forgetfulness. They can move on in life easily. I am not among them. I am cursed. I remember.
I don’t know why I remember but, unfortunately, I do.
I remember the bang on the door late that night. I remember those promises being made to my parents that I’ll be released first thing in the morning. I remember, my dearest friend sitting next to me, crying like a child in the Rakhshak. I remember being interrogated and asked every question with suffixes and prefixes like madarchood and behanchood (Mother Fu***r & Sister Fu***r).
I remember being kicked by them on silly things like saying Islamabad instead of Anantnag and saying someone’s name with respect like Syed Ali Shah Geelani. I remember being forced to get naked. Being completely naked in front of strange people was a psychological scar that nothing no solace can remove from the memory.
I remember being beaten with the leather belt. I remember my head was held in the legs of Kashmiri Singh, and he was mercilessly hitting on my naked body with the belt. His thighs were clutched around my neck so tight that I couldn’t breathe, scream or cry. I remember he missed one forceful strike that hit directly me on my privates. It was like being given 100000 watts of electric shock. I screamed gathering all my strength. He got scared and freed me. I was running and jumping all over the torture room like a crazy drug addict, in ecstasy. The pain was brutally confusing. He sent me naked to the washroom with two officers. He thought urination might lessen my pain.’
They were not worried about the pain. They were scared that if something will happen to me they will get scolded by their superiors and if I die they all will have to get through the trouble of making up a cover story
I remember walking completely naked in the corridors of the Cargo Torture Cell, while other inmates were seeing me with their pitiful, tired eyes.
I remember closing my eyes and pretending like no one is looking at me. I felt warm tears sliding through my cheeks hiding in my beard as if giving me hope. For security purposes, there were no doors for the washrooms They had just put a blanket as privacy. It was just hung there with a nylon thread and not attached with anything. My eyes were closed the whole time holding the pain inside.
I remember when I opened my eyes while leaving the washroom there was no blanket hanging there. They wanted all the inmates to see me like this and were watching the whole time.
Sometimes this incident makes me laugh. What can be the purpose behind watching someone like this except to humiliate, a soul! I remember having a first-hand account of a threat our teachers and parents used to give to horrify us when we used to commit a mistake — Troddi Travath. Well, those were just false threats to discipline us. But I remember being hung by my hands tied from my back. Being hung and being beaten.
I remember shouting repeatedly with every strike, while scars of strikes all over my body — mujhe kuch nahi pata, main kuch nahi janta!
Once when the pain became unbearable, I remember shouting: main sab kuch batounga, But once put down I was completely blank. I never knew what they were asking for. I knew no answer. I knew nothing. So, I said nothing. They hung me again, and this time they beat me till I was unconscious.
They thought I died. But I was not that lucky. I had to be there for a long time, to discover new ways to get acquainted with different kinds of pain.
I don’t know why I remember. I should have forgotten it as soon as I was released. But as I started living a normal life or pretending to be normal, I was being reminded of it every day just by breathing the sad, occupied air of Kashmir.
What is normal anyway? Sometimes, I feel I’m a faithful dog of theirs. It has been many years since. But, still, any time they call me, I have no way out but to go there: with my tongue flicking and tail waving. We, the occupied people of Kashmir, are all their dogs. They can call anyone at any time and no one can refuse. Accept those Allah blessed with true Iman and bravery. Those chosen few have in them the power to give nightmares to the tyrants.
There are things that I don’t remember. Or, actually, I never was able to remember these things — names and dates. What’s the fun of remembering their names and for what reason? And how many? Aren’t they all same? For me, every single one of them is a Kashmiri Singh. For me no one among them is innocent. You can’t fool yourself to think that someone can agree to sell their conscience to wear the police uniform and still contain some form of humanity in their shell. I can’t even in my wildest dreams think of someone in that uniform as an innocent human.
I don’t remember the dates either. Why should I? Dates always return with what they leave us with. Without freedom, every day we live is to live in utter humiliation. For me, every evening is a reminder of that terrible thud on the door, the fake promises, my mother’s tears, and my father’s fears. Every day is a day of desperation, of futile hopes. For me, every night is a night of torture. In occupation, every moment is a moment you spend in slavery. Every moment is worth remembering. And worth forgetting.
In occupation, there are no silver linings. They say, ‘always look at the positive sides of a problem’ but slavery has no positive sides. In occupation, memories haunt. There is no god of slaves. God is for free men. Men who can look straight into the eyes of a tyrant; and shake their souls with the power of resistance.