What does it take to believe that your childhood friend has died?

How do you write the obituary when the deceased was a soulmate? How do you make your heart understand that he is no more? How do you listen to the news on a phone, that your 14-year-old friend is dead?

My phone rang amid heavy firing late Friday afternoon, June 29. It was Aamir, my friend telling me: Faizaan is no more!

Faizaan, a 10th class student, was killed by the armed forces while protesting near a gunfight site in Pulwama.

As soon as Friday prayers were offered in the local mosques, news of sudden ongoing cordon operations spread virally through dry mouths.

Shoppers began to pull down shutters, vehicles started taking abnormal turns and accelerating in changed directions, honking like angry bulls ready to trample the intruders; walkers brisked their steps. People clutching their mobile phones next to their ears spoke in halts, few disturbing accentuated words like, ‘Encounter’, ‘Eidgah’, ‘Confirm’.

Three militants were believed to be trapped in a newly constructed house near New Eidgah in Chatapora Pulwama. The house was undividedly looped and cordoned by sequential regiments of densely armed forces to prevent any escapade of militants. Despite endless rains, huge swarms of people began marching towards Eidgah.

Police stood as deadly barricades hampered the advance of ardent civilians. In this bid to cork and secure the armed locus, forces resorted to intense fireworks.

Soon a sea of people precipitated near the gunfight site, unmoved by the armed assault—chanting pro-militant, pro-freedom slogans. Women also amassed and raised laments and slogans in prompt voices. Some of them in bluest despair walked past the crowd and fled towards the barricades.

Later it was known that they were either militants’ or housekeeper’s relatives. Many restless mothers searched for their unmanageable kids lost in the crowd. In that huge sentimental assembly, things were beyond control.

I saw pellet-hit boys with locked eyes being carried on motorbikes. Bullet-hit were being carried in cars, their boots sprangling out from car windows. The wet boots were laden with fresh mire and dusky blood seeping into their rubber grooves. It’s here that Faizaan was shot in his chest.


As soon as he was shifted to District Hospital Pulwama, it brought mayhem, as Faizaan’s father was practicing as a senior doctor there. Imagine the situation of a helpless doctor attending his own bullet-ridden son, dying before his own eyes!

The father tried very hard but ended up declaring his son dead. He wrapped the body in a white cloth and broke down.

Faizaan’s funeral was offered in the same hospital park where he used to play cricket with us. In light downpour and grim greenery of the flowery hospital park, prayers were being voiced while boys could not resist mourning and lamenting, calling his name, “Faizaanoo”. He was buried in his native village, Gosannad Ladhoo.

I had met Faizaan last evening near the Murran Chowk. We hugged for a slight moment and exchanged pleasantries and smiles. His eyelashes were outlined in pitch-dark Surma. He was smelling of Jannat ul Firdaus, a well-noted ittar. Puberty was lively manifested on his face, little facial hair of adolescence about to grow on his chin. We didn’t laugh as we did often, making fun of English phrases, like “I see” and “You see”. We didn’t talk of Delhi or Jamia Milia. I regret why didn’t we hug a little longer, a little tighter, in his heavenly bosom and perfume.

Back in the early days when there were no giant buildings in the hospital park, there was vast space at hand where we used to play cricket. He used to live in the hospital barracks with his family. There was a huge plot available in their courtyard where he and his brother could play. But they often crossed the wall and played with us in the park.

We were delighted to play with them as we enjoyed their high-end sports equipment. They possessed cricket helmets, leg pads, arm guards and cozy bats bought from sports stores while we struggled with home-made wood planks and a team kit. They kept multiple balls, possibly all of them tennis balls, soft balls and leather balls.

Faizaan played very phenomenally. You couldn’t judge when he bowled his tactful arms to deliver an in-swing. He would artfully duck while batting and cover whole of the wickets. And when the bowler used to complain about it, Faizaan would say, laughingly, that it was not a rule.

It’s deadly evening, when I’m writing this. I can hear the distant blasts coming from another gunfight site. The earth is shaking. As I think of Faizaan, I felt I could peep into his mind and was reminded of Madhosh Balhami’s, (a poet who lost his house and life’s work of 800 pages to flames in a gun battle in March 2018) apt verses.

Mujhey dulah bana ke maa,

hina lahoo ki ra’chaney do…

(Oh mother, ready me as a groom,

colour my hands with the blood…)

I can’t remember him forever, but yes, his name and blood is engrossed in history and memory.


The author hails from Pulwama and is doing his graduation in English Literature at University of Delhi.


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