The morning was dull and so was my heart. I had never experienced such a thing before. Lost in some thoughts, I finally found myself in the University’s library. Every single soul in the room could sense that something was terribly wrong with me. Within no time, I broke down.
A classmate walked up to me and enquired if I was alright. I was much more perplexed than they were for I myself had no clue about it. Somehow I gathered myself up and started back for home. Rest of the day went fine.
At around 9:30 in the evening, I received a call from my cousin. She had sent me a picture and wanted me to have a look at it. I was too much occupied to pay heed and soon I forgot about it but it wasn’t long when she called again and pleaded to take a quick look.
Once I checked the picture, it turned out to be a screenshot of an online newspaper. The words ‘KILLED’ and ‘TARIQ’ appeared large and bold although they were not, but somehow those were the only words that I could see, everything else faded away. As all of it broke down on me, I began to shiver. It felt as if a lightning bolt moved in my spine. I felt cold and numb. Ten long months I had waited for a glimpse of this face and now that it was in front of me I didn’t want to believe it, for, it was in such a shape which I could have never imagined even in my darkest thoughts.
Looking at it, my first interaction with him muffled my eyes. It was my first day at the Kashmir University and his too. Tariq – a tall, handsome and a very excited fellow. It took us only a few minutes to open up. He looked very passionate about our subject – Kashmir Studies, or should I say passionate about everything that had the Kashmir label attached to it. In simple words, Kashmir was all he was passionate about. A person with extraordinary leadership qualities, he would never hide his urge to become the class representative.
I have never come across somebody more helpful than him. There was this classmate of ours, Gaurav, a guy from Nepal. He didn’t have a Sim Card and was being denied one by everybody but Tariq came to his rescue and lent him his Sim Card. It still lies with Gaurav. In the blessed month of Ramadhan, he would help Gaurav in reading the Qura’n. He was loved by all.
We had so many things in common that at times I felt as if he was me. A cheerful face I remember, now covered in the dark shades of red. Throughout the night I was riding the back of memories and the dark truth of the morning earlier dawned on me. I realized why I was so low. My heart knew it already what my eyes hadn’t seen at that point in time. It new that it had lost a dear one, a brother.
Next day, I left for his village in Tral despite repeated warnings from family and friends. Once I reached there, I found the place sinister and deserted. I took the road that led to his home. As I reached close, I was greeted by two little boys who offered me a drink. I noticed a demarcated space and in the middle of it lay a bunch of flowers.
I fell on my knees and broke down; it was his grave. I mustered courage, got up and started walking towards his house where Tariq’s mother received me. She asked me where I had come from, to which I replied Srinagar. On hearing this, the expression of his mother changed dramatically and she cried loudly, ‘see my son, your sister is here. She has come for you’.
No wonder his family knew me too, for we used to talk for hours over phone. I met his sisters, they asked me a few questions, but I was silent for I didn’t know what to tell them. I have never met a man like his father. He treated me like his very own and made me promise that I will visit them again. All of them looked very strong notwithstanding their loss.
I visited his graveyard and spent some time there. I stood up to leave but couldn’t. I wanted to stay there. It felt as if I was leaving a part of me there. A relative of his accompanied me to the Bus Terminal and I had a good long chat with him. I told him that Tariq was a puzzle to me. Although I had seen him getting emotional over Kashmir time and again but I never knew that he had his eyes set on martyrdom for his land. To this, his relative replied that if you take up any of his school notebooks, you will find ‘Mujahid Tariq’ written on them.
While returning home, I was wondering how strong everybody in his family is. Their hospitality was beyond anything. I feel a hole in my chest and at times I call out to him to return, to me, to his family but then I realize he is in a much better place than any of us. I wish he calls me to the same place because everybody isn’t lucky enough to be there.
Tariq Parray, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, was killed by the army in an encounter in Tral area of south Kashmir in June earlier this year. He was a student of Kashmir University’s Institute for Kashmir studies (IKS) – a department established by former J&K Governor Lt Gen (retd) S K Sinha to counter militancy in the Valley, according to security analysts.
Parray appeared in the first paper of the first semester examination, but never returned for the second paper. Nobody had a clue about him until the day of his death in an encounter with government forces was reported in newspapers.