(Ms. Monisa Qadri was born and raised in Srinagar. She matriculated from Mallinson School for Girls and studied bio-chemistry at the Women's College, Srinagar. She is presently a mass communications student at the Kashmir University, and also works in the Corporate Communications and Public Relations Department of the J&K Bank. She writes as a freelancer and hopes to be a journalist some day. Her interests are public relations and film making.)
Two incidents, one lesson
...And then she broke the silence, narrates Monisa Qadri
Just like any other day, this day too started casually. My day was ready to takeoff. The picture around was enigmatically beautiful; hazy the firmament; sun playing hide and seek with them, cool breezes caressing my eyelashes, whistling leaves that had long fallen from the wings of their mothers, trees. Everyone around wore a smile or at least tried to. Perhaps an attempt to keep warm on this chilly morning. The journey and the scene was developing in the bus, heading towards the ‘heart of Srinagar’. The sunlight, with great compassion, was filtering through the foggy air and then shone through the murky panes of the bus, which the rain had trickled some time back. This passage was not at all smooth.
I could see faces turned white due to the snowy breeze, the tips of their nose appearing red, their fingers set stiff. One by one they stole a look at their wristwatches and their cell phones, every now and then. Like me they had to reach somewhere, in time. After all, you know busy mornings! This assembly of co-travelers, who are brought together by destiny, is nothing more than a transition in time and in space. It is simply a stopover in their journey to a destined terminal. People, belonging to a varied set of connections, come and go. The variance prevailing is true to all beings, through realities and rituals, devotions and dedication, beliefs, attitudes and approaches, emotions and expressions. But still, they are doomed to be together till they reach ‘somewhere’. ‘Hurry’ is what was common between them and me.
My seat was at a place from where I could stare deep into her eyes. Those hazel eyes, sparkling with thoughts, made me take a look at them ‘one more time’. I asked myself, ‘Aren’t they beautiful?’ There was something about them; and her! Something really concealed. She had secrets. This involvement was not a one-sided show. She was aware of my glances. It was an encounter. She might have thought, ‘may be she would ask?’, and I kept hesitating…In the meantime, the crowd grew and so did my eagerness to reach where I wanted to. For a moment she vanished from my view; and my mind too. Nothing remains the way it is. And so, there is a shift in the shades of everything. Nature transforms, expressions change, moods swing; ideologies oscillate and almost definitely the humans, too. Like seasons change without letting you know; without whispering into your ears about their intensions, similar was the case with those eyes. The thoughts got converted into water, pretty salty. Soon enough, her expressions had changed, much like the ‘weather of February in Kashmir’. Woodrow Wilson once said, ‘If you want to make enemies, try to change something’. However, this one would barely make anyone into a foe. At that point; I could feel the burden of being a ‘mere stranger’. I could not help. I could not ask; although I wanted to!
The only thing I could manage was— simply wonder, ‘what made those eyes wet?’ They say, “Eyes that do not cry, do not see”, but there are times that are different. At a place where every other pair of eyes is on you, how could she afford to let go her emotions? May be she was sad, may be blue but it was hard to see her down in the dumps. It was the mystery of a woman, in her early thirties. The glum that was clasping her, held me too.
“Won’t there be more tears she would have shed, when alone?” Though she was a stranger to me, but belonged to the land I too am a part of. Only she knows the painful reasons for this public outburst better kept deep inside. That day, it was she; next time it could be someone else. The mystery that was, still holds true, “What could have happened?”
She was in a position where she could not speak out. Someone else, somewhere at some point of time might just yell out. Suffering remains more or less the same, but the way it is taken and faced, speaks all about the results. The uniqueness of human beings is always something to watch for; the way one behaves may be different from others. Coincidently, I got a chance of seeing it later that day. May be the two have no connection.
One practice, that shows the lowest level of human sophistication and demeanour, is so common that geographically specific names have been assigned to it. They call it eve teasing, groping, street gender-violence or harassment besides many more names, but what is important is that it is unfair. We know of the gadgets that are used to undertake this crime. The ‘mission’ gets accomplished through cameras, mobile phones, recorders; the media-convergence really has come to their rescue. When the ‘ends’ are evil, means hardly matter. This lady must have been in her fifties. Her nature was visibly that of a ‘retaliator’, who would not go on taking things on her shoulders. The routine setting of the bus was challenged by her. She had the guts. An elderly son of the land was caught cheating his native culture of civility. Missing the traditional symbol of Pheran seemed nothing less than a murder. This cultural identity, which otherwise one feels for in this era of newer lifestyle invasion from outside, appeared more or less like some bluffing garb. And then the security agencies suspect the one wearing it, the reasons better known to all. It is of more use than we may probably consider. Interestingly, fighting the chill comes out as one of the functions. Like other aspects of life, our style and attitudes are in a flux, at all times. Possibly so because our desires keep on changing and so does our satisfaction. This human longing for ‘bigger and better’ ends up craving for more and more. In the process, he explores ways and means to satiate himself.
It was retaliation on part of that lady, who refused the conspiracy of silence and questioned the intentions of a man, in the open. She reacted just opposite to what I had seen in the morning. It left the man with no other option but to shy away. I could see the smiles emerging from the faces of the women around, perhaps it arose a sense of pride in them.
Only adapting to conditions as soon as possible may help resolve issues sooner. Simply carrying the courage with oneself does wonders at times. You may not always need to display it. Being in mere possession of the basic raw material, which could be converted at any point of time into confidence, to say and express, is not a bad idea at all. It is better to have it already rather than give birth to one at the eleventh hour, when one is about to get choked for its want. I saw it written somewhere, “We cannot adopt the way of living that was satisfactory a hundred years ago. The world in which we live has changed, and we must change with it”.