As soon as Mehran saw a pack of dogs patrolling the swampy area where the age-old government dustbin lay, he at once ruled out the idea of walking into the street and becoming a feast to the belly full creatures. If not about Kashmir’s history but he was undoubtedly aware of the history of dogs in his area. He stood there, at the wooden gate of his home, looking at them for a fairly long time. It was not until his mother called him from inside the house that he locked the gate in a hurry.
“Close the gate. Don’t go out. It’s curfew everywhere. Paagla! What if Army catches you?”
When he came back to his room his mother asked him to relearn his sabakh. She verbally bashed Mehran’s father too for being so careless about his child’s studies. She then straightaway went towards the kitchen and tuned to Radio Kashmir. Shammema Azad’s voice echoed the room.
Karav taemeer nau Kashmir…
Ye janat e Kashmir…
Meanwhile, fuming with rage Mehran’s father came angrily towards Mehran and in a hollering voice ordered him to open his book. Fear stricken, Mehran opened his General Knowledge book and started reading.
“India is great nation.” Mehran read.
“Read loudly” his father ordered.
“India is a great nation”
“Read the title of the chapter first”
Shivering with fear Mehran read
At that very moment, their next door neighbour mounted the maiden wall which separated the two houses and informed Mehran’s father about the Hurriyat’s new hartal calendar. Mehran’s father nodded from inside the room.
Mehran kept reading loudly.
“India is a nation of various Gods”
“Mahatma Gandhi is the father of Indian Nation”
“India is a demon…””
“Democratic”, Mehran’s father replied.
“India is a democratic country”
At this Mehran stopped and asked his father, “Abuji, what does democratic mean?”
“They have killed two more boys”, the neighbor said.
“Two or three?” Mehran’s father inquired.
Mehran asked the question again. ”What does democratic mean?”
Irritated at this Mehran’s father in a howling voice, which almost shook Mehran, replied, “It means to satisfy ones collective conscience at any cost”
Mehran could understand nothing.
With his eyes full of tears he closed the book, went to his mother and said,
“Abuji hates me”.