Our Own Fire

Insurgency in Kashmir had entered its fifth year and the sound of gunshots no longer rattled men as it used to during the initial days. Gulzar and his friends often found themselves guessing who was firing the shot, owing to different sounds the gunshots produced. The bullets fired from the Mujahedeen’s gun made an air splitting sound compared to the raucous, guttural noise a soldier’s gun made. Gulzar gradually mastered the art of distinguishing the sounds without any hassle. The trick was to count the echoes the sound of shots produced in the air.

Another year passed. Gulzar, the bones of his legs broken and his face a scalding blue, was stretched on his bed like a dead person waiting to be mourned. He would speak in low, incomprehensible voice, like the people approaching death. Released only a few days ago from police custody, Gulzar was struggling to narrate to Shakeel what had happened.

“It was Zuhr time. I was walking across the bund to meet Nasir near the park. A CRPF contingent was patrolling the Bund near the bridge. It looked like a search operation was about to be undertaken. I could tell it from the movements of their commander who was shouting at them between his puffs. I walked on, slowly, cautious not to draw their attention. As I was about to move past them, the sound of a gunshot from across the river held my feet. I immediately recognized the sound, turned around and bawled at the men:

‘Sir, Apna Fire Hai’. 

The skin on Gulzar’s face moved. He was finally smiling his smile.

Originally published here — https://archive.authintmail.com/article/reporters-journal/our-own-fire

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