Between Guns and Googlies: A life Less Ordinary
Following is a fictional diary entry of an ex-militant in the Jammu and Kashmir valley after a cricket match on the prison grounds.
XX August, 2009
It has been quite a long time since I slept with a smile on my face which is as gleeful as those of my childhood days. Never even once did I even remotely fathom playing cricket amidst all that has led to the passing of my life as a deeply scratched stone on the foothills of hell.
I remember my formative years that were spent gazing at the golden sun, the freshly painted hues of the flowers, and just bursting with joy at every instance I played cricket with my brothers. We would often forget about the tensions in the neighbourhood and got a thrashing by our elders for venturing out in the grounds at ‘unsafe’ hours. Even today I don’t understand what that meant, as ours was a fate that was constantly churning one turmoil after the other.
I remember how my uncle would get into nasty arguments with my father because he wanted a land of his own, away from what he called, the ‘cruel’ Indians, and my father, the elder one, would always reproach him for talking Kufr (blasphemy) and would stress that there was no debate of ‘us’ and ‘them’ as we were all children of God, equal in all rights.
Ironically, it was the killing of my father, a cleric by Allah’s will, by some perpetrators against peace that led me into the abyss of hatred. I was blood-thirsty, looking for a vent against all those who had brought false promises to our land, those who had been but mute spectators to the ghastly crimes done to the innocent souls of a remote and peace loving hamlet. I was fed with vile notions by some men with guns, and promises of instant retribution. The echoes of my youngest brother, holding a makeshift bat in his tiny hands, calling me to come and play instead of going away, rattle in my skull that has felt empty in the years that I have spent in solitude, repenting for my sins, having worked for those who just wanted to make more money and gain power with the element of terror.
Maybe my mother would have convinced me to stay and study, if I had just stayed to toss a few overs with the kid.
One of the most recurring ‘sweet dreams’ that have persisted among the chaos is the match between my brothers and their Hindu counterparts on one side, and my team of younger, similarly structured boys. We spent many afternoons, evenings and thrashings practicing for the ‘match of the decade’, while our elders would simply while away their time on the bed of chrysanthemums and tulips, laughing our efforts away as a futile exercise as we faced their experienced and ‘invincible’ team.
With the fresh World Cup victory on our side and Kapil Dev as our idol, we went into the match with nothing to lose for, and to everyone’s surprise, got under the skin of our adversaries. Raman started the first over with the scalping of their star opener, the burly Tehzeeb, or as we called him ‘Chakkan’. The ego bubble soon burst for our out of practise elders, as we, a bunch of kids who were considered to be novices at even holding a bat, got one breakthrough after the other.
There was no caste, creed or social status as we jumped around with joy, basking in the glory of Kapil Dev Valley XI’s (our team name) moment of triumph.
I came to know of one of the most disturbing news a few years after I was brought to this prison… I had murdered the heroic pacer Raman, my most cherished weapon against a hostile and decadent brotherhood, in the bombing I had carried out to bring the so called ‘God’s Order’ on my soil. The guilt has sucked me to the bones, time and again.
Years have passed since the incident, and I have learnt to pray for everyone I have harmed. I admit that my fingers trembled as I walked out to bat against fellow prisoners today, as I could hear the encouraging voices of my father, sister and the ever so loving mother. I took a deep breath, begged Allah for the energy to go on and started my run-up. The next hour and a half was a dream, a borrowed canvas of happiness from my past that I once again painted with emotions as innocent as my days before the fall.
We lost the match in the last over, but I could drink from the joys of the victors today, as we were all children of god, who for a brief fragment of time, had regained our place under the sun. Above all the hatred and hypocrisies, I was alive once again.
I thank my Indian jailors for giving us a slice of our own selves (the biryani after the match could have been better though). I learnt about the truth of human nature in the short game of cricket, sans fiery speeches or promises of a glorious land, I learnt that true harmony and peace lies among people co-existing as equals, not as different races and cultures.
Maybe the truth lies hidden in all of us, just that we often retire ourselves hurt from the ground of logic and amity among all the chaos.
Let’s start a new innings afresh, spread the message of concord if not the message of some utopian ‘love’ amongst all…Howzatt!!