(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11. )
I couldn’t find words
that could express me.
Downtown middle-class mentality,
nothing really remarkable
I have got!
that demand and
stagger to reason.
out of emotional miasma.
A sheer absurdity
helplessness at the heart.
Frazzled and downcast,
I cease to ask for
some blonde hash,
some bogus antics.
I refuse to buy
Anonymity became anonymous.
Belonging to a middle class family, he had seen himself growing in an idiosyncratic downtown that had stoutly groomed many good characters as well as good customs. Inspired by them, he had imbibed certain resolute beliefs. His roots had existed as an interweaving factor to guide him in crucial decision-making in life. From opting for a career to choosing a spouse, he had grounded himself within those parameters.
He basked under criticism. ‘Down-town middle class mentality’: this was his impeachable brand quality. He would parade it proudly, and in return receive a verbal modicum of sarcastic approval.
Things were moving on nicely till increasingly awful congestion in downtown forced him to buy a small house in so-called posh civil lines and settle there for good. A warm nestle of comfort was lost out. Initially, he did not stumble on anything ‘uncivilized’ about the new place. Rich people; palatial houses; brand cars; gaudy dresses; and of course, superficial smiles—it was an unknown world for him to get acquainted with.
The first nuisance dropped in. The next door landlady started to pop in often. The nagging woman was a leading gossiper who would spend hours with his better-half in the kitchen. Golden ornaments; lavish clothing; surplus money; social status—the vocabulary of kitchen was changing. ‘Rebellion’ was getting cooked up slowly. More precisely, it emanated as a Kitchen Resistance. The pushy wife became demanding and discontented. Making finicky comparisons was her habit now. This made him irritable and grumpy. He had never imagined that life will turn so glum and gloomy. A cheerless ambience had enshrouded him. The life beyond this life seemed to be a closed chapter as he found people around him rejoicing the rebellion against God. He was a misfit cruising in a missed world.
His means were adequate to lead a humble life; pompous lifestyle had no room there. Being a rank officer, he could have easily accumulated wealth through unscrupulous ways, but the conviction of his values always stopped him. His subordinates ridiculed him for being honest and termed his uprightness as ‘Gullibility’. While he used to travel in public transport, they would come to office in private vehicles. Teasing him on petty matters or engaging him in trivialities, he was horrifically pressurized to adopt treachery and break his integrity. Corruption was so overruling and superseding that it took his mental toll to resist it. He experienced uncertainty as the conflict between what he believed in and what he saw in reality around gave rise to a kind of a moral dilemma.
Even the social circles were torturous and tormenting for him. He proved to be an odd one out. He failed to live up fallaciously. It was an ordeal to exchange and maintain social connections which had turned into simple ‘liabilities’. He could not manage to spend extravagantly on various social occasions. Most of his relatives would look down upon him as a broke on the breadline. Nonetheless, he journeyed on.
Religion for him was not a ritual to celebrate. He wasn’t a staunch believer but he won’t exhibit his genuine fanaticism for public consumption. He meant Faith. Unflinching one. That’s why he would vocally nullify anything reeled off without meaning or mere hypocrisy packed off in the name of religion. Gimmickry with cant and empty religious rhetoric was unacceptable to him.
Nobody was happy with him. He would complain to a shopkeeper indulging in black marketing. He would argue with the bus driver for violating road rules and playing with the safety of passengers. He would object to approach of youngsters towards life. He would openly demur about the leaders failing in their task. He would protest against the crooked politicians who dupe naïve people. He would oppose anything that was morally and principally incorrect. People had named him unsolicited ‘confrontationist’: a crabby fellow spoiling for a fight!
He would also question the insensitivity on the part of his society, which was getting deep and serious. He was disturbed by the ‘moral panics’ of the society whose value-system was getting fragile and feeble to stand any moral weight. He was labeled as ‘maverick’ whenever he spoke his heart out. His thinking was blatantly scoffed at and it never surprised him. There was nothing tangible he could do to stop all this since there was a rising glorification and recognition of it in the society. Values had taken a backseat and it was a state of complete collapse.
He retired as an ordinary official. No awards were conferred on him for his honest contribution. He had no high contacts to market his competence. A scarce pack of pension was all that he got for slogging prime years of his life in upholding things which made him anonymous. He had no regrets. For anything.