Snow-clad view of Srinagar's Dal Lake and adjoining areas last week (KM/Umar Ganie)
David, this is Srinagar.
David, this is Srinagar and that is a home. There, not too far from the orange sun stuck inside an empty beer bottle hanging from a coil of barbed wire, a mother – standing near a courtyard ankle-deep in snowmelt, prayers and pigeons – carries a leg she lost to two-decade old diabetes. Nothing to tourists and their guides, but still she looks for hope.
David, this is Srinagar and that is her son. He hangs on the wall, framed in a rectangle, where the cement cracked, and the ribs of the house bare. He’s the only stranger her house can afford, a young boy in a blue and white school uniform smiling for a camera near the lake, his hair black and curly and his eyes twinkling.
‘Why are you here and where is my son?’, she asks when a stranger meets her in her courtyard. When you visit her next time, please tell her the story of your staff, sling and five smooth stones from the biblical brook. She can’t read a book but carries hope as heavy as her lost leg.
David, this is Srinagar. A home to the sons framed in rectangles. For so long, so much absence. For so many mothers, so much hope. For so many bare ribs of houses, so much memory that conceals memory.
(Koh-e-Fiza, November 18, 2020)
(The writer is a 2000 batch IPS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre)