by Neera Kashyap
Ikk ōnkār satināmu karatā puraku nirapǎ’u niraver akāl mūrat ajūnī sepàng gurprasād*
Kartar Kaur murmured words from the holy book under her breath, aware both of their sacredness and the constriction in her throat that refused to leave. Sometimes she could continue repeating the mantra without a break but mostly she would falter, grope for the next phrase and lose it in the shortness of breath. Even when the repetition went on for a while, her mind struggled to invoke onkar, the one constant. For the one constant remained Harpreet …her Harpreet…who had disappeared without a trace twelve years ago. A ‘suspected militant’ was all that remained of his identity. Except in her heart…her gentle son, a poet at heart, a philosopher in his soul.
The festivals and festivities of the village had long ceased to interest both her and Gurmeet Singh since the disappearance. They no longer went anywhere, and nobody asked. She knew that many mothers had lost their sons in that terrible decade following the desecration of their holiest shrine, Sri Darbar Sahib. But at least they knew their sons had been killed by the police or was in their custody. Their families had been able to establish it through investigation, through law courts, through eye witnesses.
There were some mothers who had not known. Like Kartar Kaur, Bibi Baljit had been clueless about her son Hazara Singh’s whereabouts. But ten years after his disappearance, she had learnt from the formal investigations ordered by the Supreme Court into these disappearances, that he had been cremated by the police at the Durgiana mandir crematorium in Amritsar — his name identifiable in black and white in the crematorium records.