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‘Calm Nights’ in Kashmir: Life After Battlefield Ban
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‘Calm Nights’ in Kashmir: Life After Battlefield Ban

After redefining routine and inflicting damage on real-life relationships, virtual warzone called PUBG has been banned to the delight of many in Kashmir.


Nocturnal war-cries, much to Farooq Saudagar’s chagrin, first emanated three years ago from his son’s otherwise unruffled room.

Confusing those belligerent pitches with some nighttime harrowing gunfight supposedly breaking out in his own home, he rushed towards his son’s chamber—where he found him yelling at his online friends—“Throw ammo.

Before leaving his son’s room that night, Saudagar recalls giving him a taste of his own medicine: A sound slapping session. But then, he says, even rod is no logic of some fools.

“In the morning he would plead his case with tears in his eyes, saying that he isn’t the only one fighting the virtual battle in Kashmir,” Saudagar, a fruit merchant from Old City, recounts.

“I got his point. That game was just a vent for his pent up feelings. I let him continue this madness, even when my neighbours would grumble, ‘What’s with your son? Why is he yelling in the night?’ His passion did come at a huge cost for us.”

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But somehow, the father says, it was still manageable, before it messed up his son’s sleep cycle and overall studious routine.

“He started waking up late in the day and had big dark circles under his eyes. His swinging head and irritable behaviour were equally troubling for us. His sizeable screen exposure had downed his productivity and performance. It had become a nuisance for us, before the game was finally banned,” Saudagar narrates his anguish.

But the Old City fruit merchant isn’t the only one feeling that way.

The recent ban on PUBG—PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds—has apparently restored what many believe the “frizzled out” attention in human relationships.

PUBG

Remembering the times when he was at the verge of breaking up with his fiancé, 26-year-old Nadim recalls his split personality phase in life—when he was sailing in two boats.

On one hand, he was getting dependent on the mobile game for his vent out, and on the other hand, he was trying hard to save his adorned human connection, for which he had fought some real-life battles.

But as Nadim invested more and more time and attention in the game than his relationship, resentment took roots. The couple started fighting over little things.

One night while playing the game, Nadim got his fiancé’s repeated calls. He dodged them, for he was not ready to leave the virtual battlefield. That night, the phone kept ringing.

It was for the first time in all these years when he was ignoring those beloved calls for venting out his anger of being oppressed in the virtual battle. It was giving him a warrior-like kick.

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Kashmir was and still is under 3G and 4G blockage since August 5, 2019 — when New Delhi repealed the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir’s semiautonomous status. The enforced communication clampdown badly distressed the PUBG players in the region.

The life of these youth took a turn when the game started easily working on 2G—the slow internet restored months later. Young boys and girls found the escape in the game.

Under the user name “Abu Ayaan”, the former insurgent, Nadim wanted to win every virtual battle. On this warpath, there was no question to attend to his fiancé’s calls.

But in a bid to set the things right, he called his girlfriend one night and invited her to play with him in the squad. “I made her download the game and then, rather than spending time on calls, we started spending time together on this virtual battlefield,” Nadim says.

His parents were no less irritated and annoyed with him. “Once a thief entered our house,” Nadim recalls. “My family caught and thrashed him, before handing him to police. All this was happening in my house and I was still in the game. My father scolded me after the incident, but it hardly affected my game.”

By that time, his addiction for virtual bombs and guns had peaked. He knows the name of every possible weapon now. “Whenever I see any trooper with any sort of weapon, I can easily identify it,” Nadim says.

But after New Delhi launched a recent virtual strike on Dragon’s Ladakh advances, Nadim felt relieved.

“This game works like an LSD trip—which you want to take as a youngster, but beyond a point, it badly messes up with your social life,” Nadim says. “It’s a good-riddance.”

But many in his nighttime squad are missing the feeling of being trigger-happy for the larger good. One of them is 21-year-old Afreen.

PUBG

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Playing PUBG became Afreen’s way of coping up with what was happening around. It put her into a new world. She was concerned with growing drug addiction menace in her homeland.

In her tuition, she once attended a camp on drug addiction and ways to cope with it. She thought of contacting her friends to play PUBG in squads at different intervals of time.

In her room, she started jotting down the names of her friends and scheduling the time for games and household chores. She knew how perpetual political crisis in Kashmir has instilled more anger in youth and how many were seeking hope in dope.

But in this time management chart, she forgot to put her relationship in any time slot. Oblivious of her Save Her Friends initiative, her fiancé started getting angry with her.

Her relationship was at the brink of breaking up when her fiancé came to know about her cause and appreciated her.

“I knew, not everyone is aware how drugs ruin their lives,” Afreen says. “I started talking to my friends every day about how better is it to play games and give vent to their anger rather than taking drugs.”

The ban might have brought smiles to many, but for Afreen, it has robbed the agency to save youth from the drug menace.

PUBG

But more than helping, the game was only making Kashmiri youth addicted and disillusioned in life. The case of 17-year-old Mateen is a barking instance in this regard.

When immediate rewards and relationships in the virtual world was a way of coping mechanism to deal with family dynamics, he was left with no real social connection.

Worried about his anti-social lifestyle, his parents dragged him to a psychologist one fine day.

“Mateen’s parents used physical aggression and brought him for counselling,” Dr. Wasim Kakroo, a counselor at Child Guidance and Well Being Center, IMHANS said. “PUBG was a drug for the teenager and he had become a clear addict.”

But while drugs have an immediate effect on one’s neurochemistry, PUBG slowly affects it, Dr. Kakroo says. “And this is where it was not raising many eyebrows in the society.”


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