Saturday, November 17, 2012

Buds, roses and the guns

Every child is an open book and the one who hails and buds out of a conflict is a complete memoir of its own. A compact memoir of the incidents that never get quoted in any of the huge journals that decorate the shelves of library. Those tiny eyes record and register the essence that everyone misses. Here is my friend Idhries Ahmad narrating few of those moments with his wonderfully weaved piece. Idhries had just captured what every child in Kashmir has imbibed, in itself, while being part of the decades long strife. I leave you with this article about the buds, roses and the guns.

Why AK-47 was a favourite of ours…
"Kashmir is a highly militarised zone. I met children here who could even distinguish between the sound of firearms from the security forces and militants"- writes a  journalist friend of mine…
Obviously my dear friend. We were brilliant at it. Absolutely brilliant. In those days, I would bet, me, my brother and sister were better than, dare I say, the protagonists. Nothing extra ordinary, we just had too many lessons and credit to us we were all ears to them.  
We are absolute masters at distinguishing with ease and absolute precision the sounds of an AK 47- the Kalashnikov, LMG, SLR, 303, Sten gun, Brain Gun (don’t know whether the weapon existed, but for us it did), Chinese pistol, grenade and rocket launcher among others.  
In fact, it was our favourite game for many months after which parents influenced by uncle, thought our brains needed some serious rewiring. The good for nothing uncle had somehow got hold of our copies.
But while at it, we just loved it and we were very fierce competitors on the ‘field’.
Back then in early 90s, living at the edge of the national highway, we had the 'absolute pleasure' of the hosting both the parties - militants and troopers on our terrace, garden and neighbour's extended courtyard for years.
Without a fail, the party would start in the evening. We would get our rough copies and 'select' our weapons! A toss, mostly via aaroei-maario decided who 'got' the weapons.
The rules were pretty simple. For every shot of AK 47 heard and registered, we added 1 to our respective score sheets. Brustt (only learned later that it was a burst) carried 20 points. LMG – 1.5, 303 – 5, Sten gun, Brain Gun – 2 (quite a favourite with troopers), SLR-5, Chinese pistol -10 Grenade- 50 and big bang of rocket meant 100 accrued to the kitty. 
All three of us wished that AK-47 falls in our bowl. After all it showered petals in ones, two or threes or burst of 33 and was a favourite among the parties - Khaki guys and the men in Adidas. A slight difference though. The former had a wooden handle and the latter without. I have felt the power of both though the wooden one made regular appointments with me and my friends. 
LMG was the second favourite for it too showered bullets in scores but was only handled by troopers, a handicap. Sten Gun came third, followed by SLR, pistol, grenade, rocket and 303 in order of preference.
The 'made for each other' parties would start the salutations at 7 P.M and carried on celebrations late in the night. While the ‘separatists’ started the party with much fanfare, the ‘security’ forces always took time to reciprocate the feeling in kind.
It would start off with loud explosion –a rocket invariably hitting a tree, followed a volley of grenades hitting everything- expect the target and then an unending burst from AK 47s. The unimaginative repetitive script was punctured by an equally regimented script with a single SLR shot announcing the warming up of troopers.  Within half an hour even the stragglers joined in to justify their commitment and paychecks.
Between 8 P.M and 9 P.M, the orchestra was complete with all the pieces playing in symphony. The rhythm of AK-47 punctured by the staccato SLR and squeaky pistol interspersed the chatter of LMG . Grenades added to the high base and AK 56 pointed to a loner in the party.
The grunge of 303 signaled the presence of a lone Khakhi, not the regular trooper but that of an ill equipped J&K policeman, who like his local political masters, reminded the main parties that he was capable of noise. 
From 9 P.M onwards, it used to get real tough to keep up with the scoring rate. That invariably caused confusion in the final score card which more than often ended in bitterness among the siblings. Needless to say, more than often, yours truly ended up winner.
At times, the fun would spill over to early morning, but our deadline would be 10 P.M following which we could count our score, puff our chests if we won and go to sleep. The rest of histrionics wouldn’t matter. Only if they used rockets late in the party, would we get up and disturb our score sheets.  
Moreover, after 11 P.M it was free for all. Even some Kashmir Trained militants, soyuths, handigas, lalteens (collectively referred as wannabes or also rans) joined in and we didn’t want to count runs from substitutes. The pocket I lived in had at that time 102 PAK trained militants, mostly Hizbul Mujahidin men and so never any shortage of ammunition, excitement and quality man power.
Thankfully, these late night parties were rarely bloody. The fireworks in night most determined who held the writ of the land. Most of the causalities, mostly civilians killed in reprisals, happened in early mornings. 
However, at times the bullets met blood. One such burst 'allegedly' fired by a trooper 'accidentally' hit my beautiful neighbour. She survived but never was beautiful again and never again my subject of interest. Another hit, surprisingly, a rich man. Another hit a trooper whose friends got so angry that that they waited till morning to narrate Dad their side of story in their very ‘special’ way. Another hit a militant, formerly dad’s favourite student. 
Another killed a… Another injured a… Each one a separate story etched permanently. Will share them too, some other time, when I am not in this quirky mood. In this mood, I can atleast cull out some fun in the face of tragedy that destroyed our childhood...

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