Love in the conflict

Where we lived was considered to be the hotspot of the resistance movement, so it became hard for me to see her during the days of heightened tension. The present curfew had been started about a week ago and the tension was escalating after more deaths and attacks. I tried few times a day at least to glance at her window expecting her to be there but days passed and then weeks. I couldn’t figure out whether she alright or not. I saw her father in the mosque at the end of the week which gave me a sense of relief that she was alright and they had not left that place. But one day, everything changed.
It was a gloomy afternoon, as usual of the after Wheraath (month of summer in Kashmir). I heard a few gunshots, a few in starting but then their frequency increased, but the sound of gunshots was quite loud which meant that there was firing somewhere in the neighbourhood. I quickly ran to the top floor of my home, what I saw there turned my stomach. The gunshots were being fired to her home, the forces were taking their position and more enforcements were arriving. Someone in the neighbourhood said that there were militants in that house and now they were trapped. I saw her coming out with her father and mother. Her father had been shot in the leg. He was limping and his clothes were covered with blood. For weeks I had waited to see her, that wait had now culminated into this point. But I never wanted to see her in this condition, never. The look on her face I could never forget. She was hurt and terrified, she was not herself. She was trying to hold her father and they went into a neighbour’s home. I had waited so long, I could have waited more even my whole life rather than seeing her in this condition. I started feeling the guilt.
The gunfight had intensified. Forces and the militants were exchanging heavy fire. Suddenly the window pane from where I had seen her the first time shattered into pieces due to a gunshot. It had been as if just yesterday when I saw her the first time when I was eight years old, that memory was still fresh. As if I was seeing her through that window and suddenly the window broke into the pieces and all memories as well. Then more followed. My every memory with that house was coming down with every gunshot, every grenade being lobbed. The militants refused to surrender and forces started to prepare to blow up the house. I tried to stop them, I pleaded to them, begged them, not to blow that house but it was all in mind, I couldn’t stop them, I wished I could. That house of hers, my every memory with that house was about to shatter. Then the countdown one-two-three, the first RPG (rocket propelled grenade) was fired and bang. The explosion was so loud that the windows shook but I never cared about my ears; all I cared about were those memories. Tears started to roll down. The next RPG was fired and the remaining part of the house came down with all my cherished memories. Now I was cold, revenge filled my veins. Everything was burnt down. The encounter ended and forces left the place, done and dusted.
The loss I felt was replaced by the revenge and guilt. They could have been stopped, the house could have been saved and I cursed myself. After an hour I saw her coming out with her mother, they were weeping. Some neighbours tried to console them. They were trying to recollect what they had lost, the loss was huge, and nothing was left. She walked around, under the rubble she found a doll covered in dust, its one leg broken. It was my gift to her on her 12th birthday. She cleared the dust from it and held it close and looked at my window. I wish I could tell her how much I loved her, how much I was pained to see her in this condition, how much I cared for her. I wanted to cry, to weep to shout but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bear to her in this condition.
The last time I saw her they were leaving our locality to settle somewhere else. On that day as well she was holding that doll and when she left I saw her and she saw me. She clenched the doll hard and held it to her face. I wanted to stop her. I ran after her car as far as I could, until she was out of sight. She was gone. How hard it was to love and to be loved in conflict; I said this to myself. How hard it was.
(This is a fictional story regarding the Kashmir conflict. The conflict in Kashmir is decades old, thousands lost their lives, thousands were widowed and orphaned. The latest protests have been going on for more than two months, in which 83 persons were killed, over 10000 persons injured and over 200 persons blinded. Praying that peace comes soon).

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