The newspaper vendor at the corner of a quite road in a town in Kashmir was disappointed with not many customers turning up to buy the papers that November morning. He wasn’t surprised though. Who would pay to read the same set of news taking place in the valley?
24 hours ago
Nazia was sitting by the window of their wooden house as dusk neared. The cute 7-year-old was anxiously waiting for her father to return home. At times she would venture out of the house and gaze at the long road ahead. His return would determine whether she would be able to go to school the next day. The principal had given a final warning to Nazia’s parents, who have been unable to pay her fees for that year.
The thought itself of not having the company of her friends next day onwards was too depressing for her. Her school was situated right in the middle of few picturesque hills. In fact, the entire town was an epitome of natural beauty. The greenery laden hills turned white during winter after snowfall. The flowerbeds, on the other side, provided perfect compliment.
Kashmir was nicknamed jannat (paradise) for a reason.
Bu the lives of the people from the lower strata of the society, like Nazia’s, didn’t resemble a paradise by any means. With most of the town folk struggling to make ends meet, their inner feeling was complete contrast to the beauty of the town. Just like Nazia’s father, who relied on odd jobs for his family’s survival.
It was a result of the tense political situation in the valley, which can be felt in the air. Clashes between extremists and army had become frequent. ‘Stone pelting’ had lately become the new keyword with regards to the valley.
What made life even tougher was that currently it was the ‘off season.’ November is the time when tourist footfalls decline by a great deal. As a large number of men worked as guides, the off season was no less than hell. So, when they would spot a group of tourists, they would literally hound them. But they can’t be blamed as they have stomachs to fill.
Nazia started getting worried as the sun was about to set. Sundown happens here sometimes even before 5 pm. As she was staring onto the mountain behind which the sun would set any moment, her father emerged in his usual slow walk.
He would always flaunt his red muffler around his neck. His body language and smile told Nazia that his father had managed to get the sum for her school fees. This was confirmed when he happily broke the news after entering the house.
The next day Nazia cheerfully walked to her school. She passed through the newspaper vendor who was disappointed with hardly any newspapers being sold that day. To kill his boredom, he picked up a paper and glanced just to pass his time.
The front page splashed the news of a stone pelting incident that happened in their town the previous day to oppose a political leader’s visit. The picture showed a group of people aggressively pelting stones at a government building. A man standing at the front had a red muffler around his neck.
By: Keyur Seta