In this short story Younis Ahmad Kaloo gives us a glimpse into Kashmiri lives – the pain, the trauma, the battle for survival, the constant battle between mind and heart – all captured in this words.
She was the bravest of all women in her village, and she proved it every time she was faced with a challenge, which presented itself in different forms time and time again. Firdousa was always busy with one thing or the other. At one point you would see her threading the round slices of turnips and at another, you would find her lugging a heavy roll of water pipe to a neighbour’s garden to fetch water, as most of the time the tapes at her home only vomited it in various fits instead of running it. If they ever did, they would soon get back to hissing like the scared or angry snakes. The water pump was though fixed once or twice, but that never solved the problem as other households in the neighbourhood were richer and had high-performance machines that sucked all the water from the main pipe. Firdousa did not complain to her husband but silently wished for the facilities her neighbours had, many of whom were the relatives of her husband. Lack of certain material things apart, there was nothing amiss in her life: her children were doing great in their studies and she was the most sought-after person whenever there was a crisis situation in her village.
In 2010, when Kashmir was on the boil for several months following a staged encounter at LOC in north Kashmir in which the army had earlier claimed to have killed three militants who were trying to sneak into this side, Firdousa was seen less busy at home than outside. Her village witnessed frequent clashes between government forces and youth, who descended from adjacent villages to take part in protests that often turned violent. One sunny August afternoon, a neighbourhood woman sent her 7-year-old daughter for Firdousa to seek her help in securing the release of her brother whose truck, carrying the relief material (rice, vegetables, pulses, and fruits contributed by people in his village) and headed to Srinagar, was seized just outside the woman’s house by the security forces stationed there for the day, as her brother had stopped by to say hello to her.