Coming of Age

The thing about being young is that you’re always pushed to the side. Elders know best, and all that nonsense. When do we ever get the chance to be old? At 21, my decisions are still scrutinized. Ten years from now, when I will practice as a doctor, patients won’t take me seriously. Add another ten years, and if I decide to run for public office, I won’t get a second glance. When I’m 50, a person or two might take my advice, but not until around 60 or 70 will anyone really listen. What’s the fun in that? Where is the fury of the youth revolt, the heart and soul of a new generation, when we first have to go grey for somebody to care?

            Experience matters, you tell me. I accept that as a factual statement, but you’ve got to realize that these days, experience means something totally different. I can, in the span of five minutes, open videos highlighting sit-ins and protests of people from various nations attempting to bring about change. From the comfort of my living room I can easily be transported to another time, another era. I become one of the faces amidst the masses, silently observing the oncoming threat of oppressive rule, the military forces. I bleed alongside these men and women of years past, share their anguish, and relive their torture. I openly weep at courageous displays of patriotism and valor, of determination and patience, of hope and want. I share their burden. With this, I age. With this, I gain wisdom. With this, I find my place in history.

            It’s all a matter of perspective. So from where I stand, we haven’t got a lot of time before we’re all wrinkled and boring. Let’s do something. As Shridharani rightly stated: “For the tyrant has the power to inflict only that which we lack the strength to resist.” I’d like to think we’ve twice the gumption and perseverance than any formidable opponent. Then let’s come together and form a resistance, start a wave for change, rise up, line the streets in solidarity, join our voices, pool our resources, re-paint the horizon, and finally get around to living for once. We’ve been caged for so long; now let’s stretch our legs, clear our throats, and push forward.

            Obviously sacrifices have to be made, but that doesn’t automatically mean lives are to be offered up. There are other losses that must be incurred, ones that will cut into our skins and cause us question our motives time and again, but invariably will be what we need to make a difference. We must first strengthen our resolve and buckle down, not simply cross our fingers and hope for the best. In order to form the future we want, there are innumerous tasks we have to accomplish along the way.

            Protest. Protest silently, from your living room, in your schools and workplaces, across your cities. Refuse to serve the uniforms that choke you, paying their chides no heed. Answer their questions with a defiant gaze; never let your stance waver. Buy local, support your fellow neighbor, and with the utmost precision schedule shut-downs that send a jolt through the land. One day hartals do little. Broaden the scope to month-long responses, ones that see the people gather in the heart of the Valley wherein they share food, swap stories, sit next to one another, and make clear their message. Print up pamphlets and flyers, paint signs, mass produce shirts and banners that all ring with the same bold line: Quit Kashmir.

            Sure, wallets will empty, education will suffer, and lashings will be taken. But would we not rather bask in the glowing comfort of a ray of freedom than languish in the shadows of turmoil for the rest of our pitiful days? This is where our mark will be made.

            Prepare for the event. Stock up on non-perishable goods, but take not this as an opportunity to tax your brethren and increase the prices. Buy candles, matches, gasoline, and wood. Plant as much as you can beforehand. Then when the axe falls, do as your ancestors did so many years ago, and live off the land. Patience is key in our pursuit for all that we’ve dreamed of these decades past. There will be nights with no electricity, days without water. You will be hassled, riled, antagonized. There will be attempts to shame you, steal away your dignity, and publicly humiliate you. But you will not falter. Deep inside there burns a fire that refuses to be quelled, becoming more and more voracious with each memory that’s fed to it, reminding it of our woes.

            Now what of the children and their schooling? No doubt classes will be missed, but have they truly been learning in a proper fashion since the militancy has been on the rise? One solid blackout would suffice to set the road for a proper path, one in which our youth could reap the benefits. Libraries and bookstores will be the substitute to formal education. Home schooling also remains a viable option, with teachers setting up locations where students can gather. Anything is possible so long as we strive with our goal in mind.

            Next on the agenda is spreading the word. A joint effort of civil disobedience is our best bet, arms linked and staring down the barrels of the opposing forces, chants reverberating from every corner of every town. We shall stage orderly processions from one end of the land to the other, with banners proclaiming our wants and aspirations, stopping at the required times to offer prayers. Letter upon letter will be sent to our ‘leaders’, telling them of turning tide towards righteousness and piety, simplicity and honesty. The lives given will be remembered, the families torn asunder wept for, and at the end of each day, a thanks spoken to God for another sunset seen.

            Radio stations must be overrun, amateurs tapping in to tell their tales, to get the truth out. Photos are to be taken, videos uploaded, articles written, speeches made, and every night a candlelight vigil for Kashmir to be done en masse, for we are in mourning. We hold in our arms a little piece of Heaven that is desiccating and writhing before our very eyes. It gasps for air, it begs for mercy. For this, we weep. For this, we don black. Every evening is a funeral for our home, all of us cupping the burning wick of desire beneath the starry sky, and hoping that tomorrow will bring forth fruit.

            There is no place for violence in our struggle. Too long has that been the preferred route, and it’s now an outdated concept. It will only hurt the image we hope to project- that of a tired people simply wishing for peace. Setting fires, throwing stones, retaliating with an eye for an eye will inflict nothing but harm on our cause. As the Qur’an so rightly states: “…Let not the enmity of a people incite you to do injustice; do justice; that is nearer to piety. Fear God, surely God is fully aware of all your actions.” (5:8).


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