when i lost her...
She was lying injured by roadside on Srinagar-Jammu national highway. While hunting for the food she had come under a vehicle and broken her leg. Sardaar ji, a middle aged Sikh driver used to bring sheep from Jammu for Ashraf- A butcher in our neighborhood. Sardaar ji saw her, stopped his vehicle, bandaged her, gave her food and all needed care and took her along.
The vehicle stopped outside Ashraf”s house. The road there was broader compared to the other congested lanes and by lanes. Children used to play there. I too was a child those days, may be 7 or 8 years of age. I was playing with my other friends when the truck was being unloaded. The herd blocked our way, we couldn’t continue playing. We stopped and were anxiously waiting. The sheep were being taken out one by one. The healthy ones were jumping from the truck. Some were sick, unable to walk thus carried in by Ashraf and his brothers.
Our wait had ended and all sheep had been carried in. It was sardaar ji’s turn to move the vehicle now. We waited for him but he seemed in no hurry. He was busy with something. We went closer and saw him with her. They were eating food. We could never thought of sardar ji being with someone so sweet like her. We got happy for Sardaar ji, for her and for ourselves as well.
For some time we completely forgot our playing. The scene there was much more appealing than the playing itself. I spent hours looking at them. I fell in love with her innocence. Sardarji was scratching on her back. I too wanted to touch her. She seemed so soft. Almost after an hour, sardarji geared up to leave.
Their departure was too painful. I wanted them to stay there for me. I wanted few more glimpses of her. And I hadn’t touched her yet. How could I let her go? So I spoke out. WILL YOU COME AGAIN SARDARJI? He said yes. Unbelievable!
This is how it started. Once or twice in a fortnight sardarji would come along with her bringing joy to me and all the children of my locality.
One day we were enjoying her company when sardarji wished to leave. But to our surprise she refused to go with him. Her expressions were full of respect and love for him but she still wanted to be a part of our gang now. He smiled and left her there. It was amazing we couldn’t believe the strange turn that the situation took there.
She belonged to us now. She got a new name in our locality. She was moagel. Our cute monkey…
I would sleep with her thoughts. I would dream of her. Her smiles would cheer me up. I would mould my desires with the way she would walk, with the bends she made in her tail.
The childhood those days was different. Playing itself involved hard work and labor. Just to play role of a shopkeeper half of the holiday would go in making weighing balance out of empty shoe polish boxes hung over a stick by threads. For being a dedicated house wives in play we would make mud cakes and crush bricks to chilli powder. The utensils in our kitchen would be caps of cough syrup bottles. The empty cigarette packet when placed horizontally would serve as gas stoves and if vertical would be considered as the refrigerator and luckily if there would be two boxes then it was a luxury- a telephone set..
We didn’t had teddies and Barbies at our disposal. Moagel was a single toy for the whole community. She didn’t need any battery or charging to cheer us up. She was always ready, just a hint away. “Moagli taali bajao”and she would clap her hands, “moagli salaam karo” she would greet us all “moagli tata karo” and moagel would wave her hands. She was real toy like my childhood where everything was real- the bullets, battles and the battlefields.
With the commencement of dusk, people would lock the gates of their houses from inside. The whole family would then sit together in a single room usually in kitchen. In rest of the other rooms lights would be kept off. Prayers were preferred inside. Hardly any day would pass without listening to the gunshots. In spite of being the youngest member of my family I could make out whether the gunshot heard has come from a service rifle or has been fired by a militant. Even the nature of fight could be traced within a moment. Among these dead evenings moagel would enjoy her living by jumping from one roof to another. There would be shadows on our walls, small blows on roofs, strange sounds outside but nobody would get afraid. We knew it was her- our moagel.
I remember it was Saturday evening. Around 10:30pm gunshot was being heard. It was single and loud so from a military man. A single shot in the times of encounters and cross firings. It didn’t mean much. Everybody went to sleep. Within a couple of minutes I too was under quilt along with my sister, she fell asleep while I was still dreaming about Sunday. I had planned lot of things with my friends. Bathing moagel, and purchasing peanuts and bread for her were in priority list. My sleepless eyes kept dreaming till the last time I know then I too had fallen asleep.
“Get up, Moagel has been killed”, My mother kept saying while waking me up.
“U r lying” is what I said in hope but in fear too.
But my mother wasn’t lying I could see a shadow of sadness on her face too. She told me to get up and see the dead moagel in courtyard of our mosque.
I ran away to the place where Moagel was lying dead. I saw few men women and lots of children assembled there. They were surrounding Moagel’s dead body. After trying hard I got a glimpse of her. She was lying from her back. Her mouth was open while her eyes half open. Her otherwise shiny body had turned rough and muddy. Perhaps while rubbing herself against ground. Moagel had become silent overnight. No Tata, no salaam, no taali from her. Her hands were motionless resting on her breathless chest.
“I was reciting Quran when the bullet was fired, immediately after that I heard strange sounds, they were like screams, but as they were not resembling to that of humans I paid no attention, but in morning when I went to give Azaan I saw her dead in courtyard, if I knew it was her I would have at least offered her water.”These were the words of Gul mir, muezzin of our local mosque. He was the first to see Moagel dead.
His words brought tears in my eyes. Moagel who was having dozens of children behind her, offering one or the other thing to eat, she had died when there was no one to offer her water.
It was the time for her last rites. The children did all the work. Boys arranged all the needed things while the girls were mourning and following them. We arranged a piece of cardboard and placed Moagel on it. We could see the wound. She had received the bullet on her throat. The boys shouldered Moagel and we all went to a local tap where Moagel was given her final bath. The elders were watching us from a distance. They looked surprised at our discipline and sad at the loss. The bath was over so was our joy. Moagel was shrouded in a jute bag. Moagel was again taken on the cardboard it was the time for her burial now. But before that we took her and while shouting slogans passed every lane of our locality.
Moagel mearikh begunaah…
La’illaa’ha il’lallala’aah…. Innocent ( Innocent Moagel has been killed..there is no God but Allah..)
Was our slogan. We shouted in anger, we cried at loss. We were hungry but kept silent. We chanted till we exhausted.
Many days later we heard that the CRPF man who had fired at Moagel had been beaten by her colleagues for killing their hanuman ji( A monkey God in hindu Mythology) . When her shadow had fallen on the bunker the CRPF man had taken him for a militant and fired at her.
“He has invited wrath for himself by killing hanuman ji,” one of his colleagues had said this to Gul mir.
“His colleagues had beaten him. He is begging for mercy, He is feeling guilty; He is frustrated and may commit suicide.” Gul mir added.
I can still feel the hollowness that my toy less childhood received. The void her death created within me. For days together
I couldn’t believe that my living toy was dead. Moagel was killed (rather martyred as I used to say in my childhood) for no fault of her. She was enjoying the liberty of being an animal but once her shadow resembled to that of humans she had to pay the price of her life. She fell to the bullets not meant for her.
Finally Moagel was laid to rest under an electric pole. For many days we used to keep the place clean. Now our Sundays would end up in cleaning, sweeping and showering the petals over Moagli’s grave, because we had nothing else to play with. No teddies no Barbies. With time we grew big and forgot the incident. No more cleansing is done near at the place, no petal is found around. But whenever I pass through, just a single glimpse at the pole makes me to speak out…
Moagel mearikh beagunaah…