Living locked down life away from Kashmir

By Sana Altaf

When the news about coronavirus broken two months back, I paid absolutely no heed. I was more attentive to the communal riots that had gripped India and killed many innocents.
However, with each day the deadly virus gagged headlines as it killed people and infected thousands. I watched the news, read through stories and went about my day as usual without giving it too much thought. Even when the first case of the virus was detected in Dubai, I did not panic. We will be okay, I told myself.
What followed was closure of schools, nurseries and places of worship. The number of cases reported in the UAE began to show an increase as thousands lost lives worldwide while battling against the virus.
A house was gutted in fire since they could not call for help. There were no virtual classrooms, no work from home or relief packages for the poor.
Now three months past the deadly outbreak, the world has come to a standstill with most countries under lockdown. Millions have lost their jobs and livelihood of many others is at stake. No one knows how long this is going to continue as people remain confined within their homes.
Everywhere I look, there is anxiety, worry for survival. While I pray every day for the well-being of humanity, there is a part of me that feels strange about the whole thing. As I make sure to stay home and ensure my family’s safety, deep within I feel numb because for me this is just another lockdown of my life.
As a child, I was nurtured under lockdowns, shutdowns and crackdowns.
At the age of six I knew well enough that an early morning announcement from the mosques meant the area was cordoned and that crackdown was in place.
I knew my father, like other men of the locality, would be paraded on a large compound in front of the captured militants for identification while women stayed home as security forces entered for frisking.
By the age 10 I was well versed with the meaning of cross firing, grenade blasts, tear gas shelling and lathi charge. I knew the difference between razor wires, barbed wires and barricades. At teenage, I had witnessed gun wielding men and blood drenched streets.
And I stepped into adulthood with series of lockdowns characterised by the killing of innocent children and youth. They became more frequent from the year 2008 and month’s long lockdowns became a norm almost every year. The whole Kashmir would be cordoned by security forces deployed at every corner.
Most often the internet connectivity was snapped and so were mobile services. We stayed home all the time, with news blaring about rising death toll from the TV. The most recent and the hardest lockdown was in 2019 after the abolition of Article 370.
The internet, mobile and landlines were snapped leaving no means of communication. The cable television was banned. The family and friends of those under lockdown had no means of connecting.
For weeks children were unable to speak to their parents. In events of medical emergency there was no mean to call the ambulance.
A house was gutted in fire since they could not call for help. There were no virtual classrooms, no work from home or relief packages for the poor. People suffered each day as the world lived their normal lives. As the longest lockdown ended in Kashmir recently, another one has taken over.
Today as I stay confined within my home in Dubai, I look out of the window. I see very rare movement of people. I ask myself, when was the time my family, my loved ones moved freely? It was before August 5, 2019. –GN