Covid-19: Call it Kashmir

Covid-19: Call it Kashmir


My Saturday started with an interesting piece of news from Italy. I learnt from a popular international news channel that an ambulance comes to pick up anyone carrying the Covid-19 bug. Thereafter, the family is told nothing of the patient’s plight, except, in case the patient succumbs, the address to the person’s grave is sent to the family to hold a memorial.
Here in Kashmir, this news looks strangely familiar, so routine that one may not even feel the emotions and pain that the journalist from Italy had tried to share. We have had our own peculiar bugs, causing similar disappearances of family members, and addresses of their graves sent to families later. We are no strangers to people dying in isolation.
That is not the only thing we are able to identify with these days. Cities and towns locked down and people confined to their homes is a scenario we recognise well.
Appropriately, therefore, Covid-19 can be renamed ‘Kashmir’, for its doing a Kashmir to the world. I would like to ask how it feels to be jailed inside home, staring at the prospect of death, and suffering the disappearance of those you love. But it sounds sadistic. Right now, the world, getting fat and bored in the confines of home, is too overwhelmed with Covid-19 to read about our sufferings. Asking that question now would be funny, like a joke, really!
It might even make Kashmir laugh as well, because we, too, are debating the conflict and the similarities between science and faith. Perhaps it is not even a debate anymore, as science looks to have already won, even in Kashmir Valley where mysteries and science usually coexist. Faith doesn’t seem to be present even in the Masjid these days.
Funnier, though, is Kashmir joining the worry about coronavirus and contemplating on how it may change the world order. What is so precious in our lives that the bug will take away? What is boring to the world nowadays is what we call life here. In the last eight months, the kids at my home went to school for a total of seven days. The last time I – and you, too – freely moved out of home was on July 31, 2019, the year in which Covid-19 took birth.
Kashmir should be taken as an example, a case in point. There are many Kashmiris who die in much worse ways than how the corona bug kills. When I try to imagine them amidst the global worry about the pandemic, the involuntary grin on my face seems to ask, ‘What is left to save?’
The answer is, the elite, however you may choose to define them, in the world universally divided between ‘the elite’ and ‘the exploited’. Theoretically, Covid-19 will not discriminate between the two, but the economic disaster resulting from the lockdowns will definitely kill the exploited alone. The world has almost confirmed their death against the 2%-3% possibility of them dying from the virus.
The world, after all, isn’t Kashmir to know how to miraculously survive the lockdown seasons. Here, if it were an earthquake instead of Covid-19 pandemic, I am sure the response would still have been the curfew. Our administration is too good at converting living cities and towns into jails. In fact, the only thing they are good at.

—The writer is a freelance journalist

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