A recent parent-teacher meet over suspended state of education once again shifted focus to screen-stricken students being schooled in the stressful situation since 2019 summer. One such student is Aisha, whose transition from Curfew to Online classes has only made her identity conscious.
She wakes up early, takes online classes and ends her day with diary writing. It apparently thaws her anger and anguish. Barely 10, Aisha has literally become vocal over her homeland’s different shades of grey.
Like other Kashmiri kids, she’s out of school from last three years now. She talks about politics and the state of affairs in the valley. “She’s growing very fast,” Kulsum, her mother, says.
“Kids of her age shouldn’t talk about things like NIA, encounters, Taliban and other issues shadowing Kashmir. But sadly, they’re growing up with these ugly realities now.”
Back in the day, Kulsum had become a politically-sensitive girl growing up in the turbulent nineties. “Our generation was quite conscious about things around, but our children are growing up faster due to the unabated offensive. My daughter is even penning this unending pain.”
Her diary entries map the mood of times. Those losing homes in gunfights find a special mention in her writing: “Today, I saw this little girl near her blasted home somewhere in Kashmir. She was looking for her doll, like I was doing in 2016…”
Aisha was 5 when Kashmir witnessed street protests over the passage of a popular insurgent commander in summer 2016. Schools became shut shops overnight, as streets exploded with rage. It was during those times, some young educated Kashmiris decided to run Curfew Classes. This voluntary effort was seen as an act of community defiance.
Those who turned up for Curfew Classes showed a different bent of mind. Aisha—whose world revolved around her doll—was one of those restive students.
At the outset, she would drag her feet for those classes. It wasn’t that routine reluctance towards study, but something that had become a paranormal activity in Kashmir.
During a nocturnal raid at her home that summer, she wept over the dear demise. Everything was ransacked — kitchen wares, laptop, cupboard, and other objects. But there was one thing Aisha had cried a river for: her damaged doll.
Days later, she passed through militarised streets holding her mother’s hand. Kulsum was trying everything to cheer her little girl up. But amid prying eyes, Aisha was holding everyone responsible for her doll’s fate.
That unspoken sorrow inflicted by the trampling of her companion was perhaps understandable. The loss took place nearly two months after Burhan Wani was killed in a Kokernag gunfight. And since then, the little one had only the company of her dearest doll.
She would talk to her — even rebuke her during their play. Every morning, she would insist her mother serve her doll a separate cup of milk and a plate of snacks. She would take her to the bathroom, undress her and wash her up. She would talk to the lifeless thing as if she understood every word little Aisha spoke. Nothing derailed this sense of kinship — no matter how loud shells were burst to counter shrilling voices on streets that summer.
But when she lost it in the sudden storming of her home, Aisha became distraught.
Her mother handed her to a young Samaritan—voluntarily teaching kids in that Curfewed Class. Aisha sat near a giggling girl. She flashed that sad pout on her frown face. She wanted to run away and grieve over her beloved loss in peace.
Recalling those Curfew Classes in times of Online Classes, Aisha says that nothing much has changed in Kashmir since then.
“These emergency classes have made us conscious of our identity,” Aisha says.
“The only difference between Curfew and Online Classes is that — I was mourning my doll then, but consoling my heart with diary now.”