Competition Entry #17 | Freedom to Dream: India at 70


ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry


Vrinda Vaid, 19 years old, Delhi


The world seems black to me.

I had been trapped in this gloomy place for the last 30 nights, nights because the day came as death to me. The marks on my face don’t concern me, nor do they hurt anymore. The mirror on your Ammi’s wall has grown dim, and I can’t see my face through it, but I can see these black massacring blots on my face, that have eaten up my skin.

I forgive these scars.

But, what kills me inside are my eyes, that I can no longer look into. I know I look funny, with my left eye butchered with a stone and my right eye shedding the hope of vision with each passing day. With my eyes gone, I have also lost the beautiful panorama of my stories and my pictures, which my camera now fails to produce. The way a sheep turned back and looked at me with hopeful eyes, the poise with which the Shikara moved seamlessly through the waters, like a lover giving way to its beloved, the bitter smile on your Ammi’s face when she saw me kissing my camera, the longing in her eyes, your constant glare at the tubelight in the haspataal room when you opened your eyes to the world and the words emerging out of every photograph that I clicked, for they longed for a tongue to recite their story.

These memories are like the distant roads of Anantnag, that I had left and come to Tral, in search of the one tasveer that would liberate me. But, in this chase of satiating my heart, I did not realize that life had changed terms, for it to dictate and me to obey like a tamed horse.

I tried.

In the first 20 days of the curfew, not a single ray of the sun touched my body. My body froze but my soul refused to give up. After the first three days, I felt my lungs choking, for my eyes could see nothing but gloom all around. No Pictures. No Stories. Blank Pages. Blank Reels.

On the fourth day, I decided to weave beauty. I recited the Azhan and prayed to Allah, to give me strength to knit filaments of alphabets in my house. I picked up my camera. With a touch of its body, life returned to me. And I realized the promise that I had made fifty years ago. As I stood on the reshmi mat that reminded me of your Ammi, I smiled to my camera and for the first time, I saw it smiling back to me. It had kept its promise of not leaving me until words left me.

Something was eerie. For each time a commander fired a civilian dead, the words would flow like honey on the sheet of paper. My tears had dried and my fear buried under the weight of my camera.

At around eleven on that night, I woke up for I heard a crash in the dining room. I saw five masked men vandalizing the house, breaking the roof. They left saying, ‘You better not send any pictures to the media, or the flesh that you are left with would be ripped off your bones. Think about your children.’

And, I saw my camera broken to pieces, lying on the floor; molested, assaulted and battered to death.

Its 11.59 pm, 14th August 2016, and I can see a gun lying on the road. Guns, you see have become like roses in Kashmir. Ubiquitous.

I walk out, and I say goodbye to you.”

Hayaat found pieces of the broken camera and a single picture on the table.

The picture made her go black in her eyes too.

A note on the bottom of the picture said:

‘The rain refuses to heal me. It does not seep through my skin like it did. Water reaches my glasses, but refuses to touch my eyes. I’ve lost my ability to feel. I’ve failed my existence.’

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