‘Azaan’ – A Call to Gather

My window is wide open on a sunny day inviting fresh air coming from the mountains of Pir Panjal. Bees are buzzing in the garden of my family’s backyard sucking nectar from the bloom of a young apple tree.

I am silently watching and feeling this union of breeze, Bloom, and the Bee. An old Bollywood song is playing on the radio in the kitchen,’Yehhi wo jagah Hai , Yehi wo Fizaayain…’ I can hear small children playing on the village road, A road which hardly sees any vehicles coming or going. Amid this, I hear the screeching noise coming out of the Mosque loudspeaker. This is no time for ‘Azaan‘? I exclaim! 

thorn plant Kashmir
Thorn Plant, Kashmir

Next moment I hear a male voice on the loudspeaker, asking every person to gather in the yard of the primary school located next to a stream with their identity cards. This we call ‘crackdown’. Our world is all about proving our identities, who we are, and what we do. Looking out of the kitchen window my mom checked in with my father if he is still working in the kitchen garden, soon after realizing that he is walking inside the house to take his identity card, she closes the window and asks me to step inside the kitchen. An uneasy calm overtakes the whole house, it feels as if the buzzing of honeybees, the breeze, and apple bloom are also being summoned to the school courtyard. Everything turns gloomy. Looking outside of the mosquito net of the main door, I see many old men walking with their sickles, Pherans, shovels, and slippers in their hands. it feels as if it is the day of judgment and God is summoning all of mankind. The day when all humans will be questioned for what they had done in the world. 

frozen season
Snow, Kashmir

I see my father too walking out of the home with his card in hand. All men are assembling on the side of the stream in the lush green yard of the primary school. As soon as the village desolates it is filled with men and their AK-47 rifles in hands, and I see our courtyard fills with as many as ten soldiers. A deafening silence takes over the whole village as if it turns into a graveyard. The next activity that follows in this world is that every household will be searched, I witness at least five soldiers entering our house and ask my mom to open the doors of all the rooms. We have a room on the first floor, it has a newly constructed kitchen with shining tiles up to three feet. Following the orders, all the cupboards are opened, with every cloth out, including a small pocket size mirror and a black color muffler, one of the soldiers scans the whole room with his handy detector. This process is going on in almost every household at the same time. My mother holding my hand moves here and there with a scare on her face. Next moment the silence which has taken over this village of farmers and carpet weavers breaks with cries of some man. Soon this cry is followed with many such male cries. My mother, oh God, they are beating men.

In the heat of August, we stay under the open sky, with the sun on our heads, cries of our loud ones in our ears, and our sight filled with fear.