No room for a Kashmiri

I finished my medical studies from the alluring port city Chittagong, Bangladesh in the year 2012. It was honestly the encyclopedic studies, very comprehensive and detailed. But more importantly it was my parents’ dream to be a doctor, so I choose this profession in a more honoured way. I hail from Kashmir, called the heaven on earth but only the inhabitants of this place have felt the hell part of it. Be it in inside the Valley or the other side of famous Jawahar Tunnel, almost two and a half kilometers long that segregates us from the rest of India. Some analyse this separation as a geographical one, but the people of Kashmir are made to feel discriminated at least once in their lifetime outside Kashmir, in India only.

No room for a KashmiriA few years ago I was peregrinating back from Dhaka to Kolkata, had a couple of nights stay in the city before heading towards Srinagar. I still remember the city was very crowded, crammed full of people, much more than the routine as people were busy with Durga Pujja celebrations. As usual after reaching the Marques Street, I started hunting for one comfortable hotel room. I was dog-tired, weary and drowsy, attending a very hulky luggage and substantial amount of cash in my pocket. With mid noon sun scorching over my head I had a glass of mango shake and entered a hotel with a smile on my face. Personally, I hold it as an opinion that it’s better to lend a smile and Islam counts it as a charity.

The receptionist was a middle aged man with a proud moustache. “Good afternoon sir”, I exclaimed in a very polite manner. As I requested for one air conditioned room, he was busy looking at my humdrum yet smiling face, as if he was reading some address pasted over my forehead. May be he was trying to do the same, because of my fair complexions, like any other Kashmiri, and golden beard he questioned, “Are you from Kashmir?” I was happy that at least he recognised me a half for good, and the other half I introduced myself to him chivalrously in a very salubrious way. But what was about to unveil wasn’t comfortable for me at all.

The receptionist was annoyed and me almost antagonized, knowing that I was about to experience the contentious issue with him. His shrewd mind was cooking an excuse as he exclaimed, “All rooms, both AC and Non AC rooms are occupied.”

Allah had some different plans to expose his bigotry. At the very same time another person arrived inquiring the same receptionist for an air conditioned room. I decided not to leave the place just waiting what would be the receptionist’s answer. It was as if I was assured by someone that the receptionist was playing some kind of melodrama with me. Honestly, it was a weird situation, the receptionist wasn’t answering to him at all. The visitor was baffled and I was looking at the faces of both of them.

After a minute or so when that visitor again requested for the room, the receptionist couldn’t resist himself from vomiting out the truth. “Yes sir, we have rooms available.” And after that he confidently looked into my eyes and said, “Kashmiri, no room for you.”

I was literally devastated; after all I wasn’t booking the room for free. I never questioned his answer in negative but in the back of my mind it nailed me down.

To my utter astonishment as I looked at the visitor’s passport, I discovered him to be the citizen of England. He could give a room to some visitor from England, the country that once occupied and tortured his country India. But not a Kashmiri student, the citizen of same Kashmir that is with all the love and respect accepting thousands of tourists from India with zero discrimination.

I am sure his definition for Kashmir would have been an integral part of India, but is it only the land or people also? It wasn’t the first time I had to face this apartheid. A year before also, me and my friends in the same city had to face the similar kind of a situation.

Not only in Kolkata once we were refused to get the room in one hotel in Delhi as well. I never want to lacerate the emotions and feelings of good Indians. But it hurts a lot when on one hand Kashmir is embraced as an integral part, but on the other hand Kashmiris are made to think twice before taking a step forward.

In Delhi, some boys shouted at me without any reason and tried to provoke me. In Old Delhi, one guy on bike yelled at me, “Uss side mein chal Kashmiri, Yeh tumhara Srinagar nahein hai” (Walk on that side of the road, this is not your Srinagar).  But I stood silent and patient for I got the answer for the reason of prejudice and racism, that it wasn’t my place at all. That’s what he reminded me.

I am not painting all the Indians with the same brush. But there are more than the issues where we are treated differently in an unacceptable way. Now I realize how much embarrassment Gandhi had to face in South Africa, racism and apartheid. There is an open inequity what basically all can see, but many prefer to be blind.

I’m told I’m not what I’m,

I’m forced to embrace the blame.

I’m named an inhabitant of heaven,

But hell awaits with soaring flame.

I’m just but injustice where I sojourn,

I’m the corpse and myself I mourn.

But as I peep through my ajar eyes,

I see the smirk, the unbound bourne.

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