When he alternating to Makan Taintees smelling of ink and sweat, chachi jaan gave him an envelope. She had a afraid expression. A afraid announcement was what chachi had been cutting anytime aback Yusuf had arrived. It was what she had put on one day and abandoned to booty off, absolution it bleed into the crevices of her face.
“There is a letter for you, beta. Addition larboard it at the door.”
Yusuf took the envelope from her. “Are you all right, chachi jaan?”
“Haan, beta,” she sighed. “Imam was actuality aloof now.”
“The auto driver?” he said as he aperture accessible the envelope with a penknife. “Why?”
“He aloof came aback from the city. They’re closing bottomward everything. In a few hours, Srinagar will be blocked.”
“Why are they blocking it?” he slid out the capacity of the envelope; a distinct white folio bankrupt over.
Chachi attempt him a calumniating glance and he accomplished this wasn’t what she had accepted him to analyze afterwards accepting this allotment of information.
“How will Jaleelah get home?” he adapted himself at once.
With a annoyed nod, she angry to the sink. “I accept no idea. I would accelerate her ancestor to get her but he’s at … a friend’s. She can appear by herself, of course. I’d aloof be adequate if addition was with her, you know.”
“I’ll go get her.” Yusuf offered, one eye on the envelope in his hand, the added on his aunt. He angry the envelope about to acquisition the address. There was none.
“You’d do that?” Chachi angry around, delighted. “You can booty your character card. They won’t be too acrid if they see you aren’t Kashmiri.”
He aloft an eyebrow. “They’ll adhere me upside bottomward and exhausted me to death, chachi jaan.” Her aperture channelled and he smiled reassuringly. “I’ll go appropriate away. Jaleelah has to acknowledgment afore the blockade.”
He afflicted into a beginning shirt in his room, ran a adjust through his adaptable beard and abrogation the envelope on his bed, he larboard the house.
Imam was at the station, his taxi’s aperture accessible to let in the air.
“I charge to go to Kashmir University, Imam bhai.” Yusuf agape agilely on the window. Imam looked up from his phone.
“That is in Srinagar, bhai sahib.”
“Haan,” he nodded. “I accept to go get Jaleelah afore they abutting the city.”
“But I can’t booty you, ji.” Imam’s face was a admixture of embarrassment and resolve. “They will ruin my taxi.”
“I will accord them money,” Yusuf said consolingly. “I accept my Pakistani character card. I’ll accord them money and they’ll let us pass.”
Imam laughed outright. “If they see your Pakistani character card, they’ll annoyance you to the badge station, bhai ji. And they will booty me with you.”
Yusuf pursed his lips. “Can I get addition taxi?”
“If you go by Hazratbal alley assimilate Nowhatta, it’s the quickest avenue on foot.” The auto disciplinarian began blanket the dashboard, signaling the end of their conversation.
Yusuf set off on foot, apprehensive whether he would accomplish it to Jaleelah in time.
He encountered the cartage hasty out of Srinagar abreast Nehru Memorial, the alley in advanced of the hospital chock-full like a bedraggled drainpipe. In the average of it sat a container, abrogation alone abundant amplitude for a distinct car to action through at a time. In that amplitude stood a Rashtriya auto abundant like the one Major Khatri had accustomed in the atramentous before. On the alembic and central the auto sat aggressive men and a few stood outside, captivation aback the anguish army of cars, bikers and pedestrians.
Shouts of “papers dikhao” and “sarak bandage hai” afraid aerial like a blubbery fog.
Pushing through the few pedestrians and cartage on this ancillary of the container, Yusuf absolved up to the jeep, aback blame his blooming ID agenda added into the abridged of his jeans.
“Janab!” he alleged loudly. No one paid any attention. Getting afterpiece to the men continuing outside, he alleged again, bouncing an arm to abstract them from the car they had surrounded, a arenaceous Toyota apprenticed by an old man in white shalwar kameez. The old man was adage article about Friday prayers audibly and the soldiers were answering appropriately audibly in absolute Kashmiri.
Yusuf waited abreast the bend of the container, watching car afterwards car about-face away, banal afterwards banal ask about an alternating route. The sun shone on the aback of his abutting and affected his arch into an automatic bow, diaphoresis rolling bottomward the aback of his abutting and into his shirt.
When bisected an hour had anesthetized afterwards any one accessory to him, his backbone assuredly gave way and he strode through the army to the auto and agape audibly on the awning of the car.
Inside, the two uniformed men who were application the advanced seats in abysmal conversation, chock-full abbreviate and looked through the aphotic bottle at the adolescent man with the abbreviate cheekbones and annoyed blah eyes and their own eyes narrowed into slits. They had exchanged a glance aback the adolescent man, audacious by their motionlessness, had agape on the awning of the car already more.
They got out, rifles slung beyond their chests, straightening their caps.
“Janab,” Yusuf stepped appear the taller one. “You can see what a huge army there is. If alone three men appear to them, these bodies will be actuality all day.”
The alpine man didn’t answer, his eyes arid into Yusuf’s, his face expressionless.
“I charge to go to Kashmir University.” He explained to them. “What do you accept to analysis to let me in? My papers?”
“Dekhein, I absolutely charge to access the city.” Yusuf’s backbone was crumbling and it was crumbling fast.
A smile started on the beneath soldier’s aperture and started aggressive up his face to his eyes.
“You charge to access Srinagar, chotu?” he said and his bend dug into his taller companion’s side. The smile jumped from his eyes to his companion’s face and the two stepped assiduously together, the taller one casting his rifle’s base in Yusuf’s direction, causing Yusuf to involuntarily aback up.
“Dekhein,” he began and he was acutely acquainted of the two men’s leering eyes and badinage lips. “I aloof charge to get into the city. My accessory is in there.”
“My accessory is in there.” The alpine soldier mimicked in a banausic articulation afore borer Yusuf’s chest with the rifle’s butt. “Tou why did you accelerate your accessory there, bhayya?”
Yusuf pushed the burglarize abroad from himself, his cheeks afire up. “Let me through.”
“Let me through.” The beneath soldier echoed him this time. “Let me through, bhayya. Nobody gets through. There’ll be a alarm in Srinagar in one hour, bhayya.”
“I will be aback in half,” Yusuf told him.
“No, you won’t,” the alpine soldier leaned aback adjoin the awning of the auto and said languidly.
“Yes, I will.”
Yusuf took a deep, algidity breath. “Dekhein,” he said. The abbreviate soldier laughed aback and a block of discharge landed on Yusuf’s cheek.
“Arey, bhayya. Kuch dikhao gey tou Dekhein gey na-aa!” he said in a acute voice, batting his eyelids. Addition from the top of the alembic hooted. Yusuf looked up. The soldiers who had been sitting about on it had aggregate at the edge, attractive bottomward at Yusuf and the two men from the jeep.
“Let’s see what you appetite us to see, then.” The alpine soldier said and his aperture were twitching. “What are you demography off for us today?” he stepped closer, avidity the collar of Yusuf’s shirt amid a blubbery forefinger and a thumb, a ashen smile on his face. “This? Or article else?”
Yusuf pulled the collar abroad and aback he opened his mouth, he accomplished he had absent all adeptness to anatomy a articular sentence. He pushed a afraid duke into the abridged of his jeans and pulled out the blooming ID card.
“Pakistani.” Addition said in a articulation blatant with fury. It took him a additional to admit the voice. It was his own. “I am Pakistani and if you -” he aloft a finger, the tip centimeters abroad from the amber adenoids of the Indian soldier. “If you amusement me this way, you will pay for it. Samjhey?”
“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” the beneath soldier let out a captivated shout. “Oh-ho! We accept a Pakistani on our hands!” he plucked the agenda out of Yusuf’s aloft hand. “What are you, Pathan? Punjabi? Oh-ho!”
“I am Pakistani.” Yusuf repeated, his eyes on the taller soldier’s. “Now let me through.”
“Arrey bhayya.” The soldier said in a low, asperous voice, his feel alarmingly abutting to the activate of his rifle. “You are Pakistani, yes, but there’s a baby problem.”
“What is that?” Yusuf asked loudly, fuming.
“This isn’t Pakistan.”
The burglarize base came out of nowhere, smashing into the ancillary of his face afore he could move out of its way. Yusuf fell face aboriginal into the dust of Nowhatta Road, the larboard ancillary of his face on fire. Afore he could angle up again, a cossack airtight into his ribs and his eyes bankrupt again, his arch spinning. He had never acquainted affliction before, he realized. Aback you cut your feel accidentally at your kitchen adverse in your accommodation in Islamabad, that isn’t pain. That is candied pleasure.
This. This. He thought, as the two men kicked him again with their boots and the butts of their rifles. This is pain.
He capital to move, get up, barb their eyes out, being the muzzles of their accoutrements into their mouths and shoot their accuracy out but at every blow, his anatomy promised him it would acknowledge afterwards the abutting – that the abutting draft would somehow be added bearable.
Pakistani. Kutta. Bharat Mata. Saala. Jai Hind. Words weren’t absent fireflies on this arenaceous alley in the adumbration of the container. They did not float about silently. They slithered on the ground, appearance up, arresting into the arena and into the adolescent man askew aloft it with long, aciculate fangs.
“Kuch Gulabi saanp hein.” The band from Muneer Niazi’s composition came to Yusuf out of some alien bend in his rapidly concealment brain. “Kuch gulabi saanp hein.”
He approved to accessible his eyes. Addition was babble his name. The words were abetment off, their rattlers still, their fangs withdrawing, angled tongues tucking in.
Something wet slid bottomward Yusuf’s aged audacity and abhorrence rose central him. Is that a tear? He arena his face into the dust, not absent to know.
“Jaaney dijiye.” Her articulation was calm, cold, calculated. Out of eyelashes caked with claret and dirt, he could see her acute article into the RR soldiers’ hands. Behind the container, Kashmiris stood. Yusuf Kashmiri’s people. A bent, twisted, old bodies who would accept attacked the Indian soldiers the moment the soldiers had alleged them Chotu.
They were a bodies built-in in a snow apple and they were a bodies who sang to breach the bottle of their snow globe. The Yusuf who had never alternating had never abstruse that song. He had aside in a low, hushed articulation all his life, like chacha jaan hasty afterwards his ancestor as he opened the doors of his abode to a Milton in the asleep of the night.
His blah eyes approved to acquisition her atramentous ones, but bootless and afresh closed. His academician had assuredly accustomed up on his body, absolution it bore into candied oblivion.
To be continued…
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