We might be spending hefty amounts in decorating and building mosques, sacrificing costly animals on Eid; we visit graveyards on Eid and remember our dead; but the question is, do we care about the living?
Syed Kaisar Shah
Meh Meh” he mimicked the bleat of the neighbour’s sheep that will be sacrificed on the upcoming Eid. Then followed the voice of his mother yelling at him, Nair Vh! (go now). I stopped. His mother, who works as a midday meal cook in a nearby government school, requested me to take him to the other village where I was heading. I nodded and took him along. This 12-year-old is not very popular for studies but famous for his naughtiness. I initiated a conversation by asking, will you sacrifice any animal this Eid? “We don’t need an animal to please Allah; we have already sacrificed our desires,” he replied with a tone of pride in his voice.
Further, I asked, what are your plans for Eid? He answered quickly, Eid Gaye Ameeran (The Eid is for rich people). Rich people will cook a variety of dishes, he said, burn firecrackers, wear fancy dresses, shop till they drop while the poor will remain mute spectators. I could feel the anger and disappointment in his words. I tried to convince him by saying that the literal meaning of Eid is “the day of happiness”. His sarcastic smile clearly showed his disagreement.
Many studies and reports have said that children in Kashmir are traumatised and depressed, with all kinds of emotional disorder and behavioural changes, due to the pervasive conflict. Some of the children grow up with low moral values and pessimistic traits. But this case was different; he seemed more mature than his age. His father, a private school teacher, is in jail ever since the scrapping of Article 370. The UN human rights body has urged nations to release individuals detained without sufficient legal basis. No one has paid heed to that urging here. He will be celebrating this Eid without his father. He seemed annoyed about the people who live around him who are religious and rich. They have managed to decorate the mosque with crewel curtains, costly Kashmiri kaleen (carpet) and complete wooden panelling. They even take care of mosques in other villages, but fail to see the miserable condition of his family. His next-door neighbour, a businessman who sacrifices an animal every year, spends on it more than the boy’s family’s entire annual expenditure. The neighbour has never lent them a helping hand. The boy expects a share from his animal sacrifice. He talked about how their family waits for a portion of the sacrificial meat with which it makes barbeques and a cooked meal.
At least this child has hope that his father will return one day. A study by UK-based child rights organisation, Save the Children, revealed that the estimated population of orphans in Jammu and Kashmir is more than 2 lakh.
Meanwhile, we reached his destination and I asked hurriedly, why are you going there? He said, we don’t own a smartphone, so my mother has requested these people to let me attend on their phone my online classes.
He left with a smile on his face and many thoughts in my mind. We might be spending hefty amounts in decorating and building mosques, sacrificing costly animals on Eid; we visit graveyards on Eid and remember our dead; but the question is, do we care about the living?