As postpaid cellphone services limped back to life in Kashmir on October 14, Kashmiri residents, migrants and their friends rushed to call their loved ones.
This was the first time the service was restored in the region amid the ongoing clampdown following the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre.
While the conversations lit up many faces, the first phones calls also delivered some bad news to many. “It was my best friend [with whom I spoke] first and the first thing she said to me was that Dadi is no more. I was taken aback,” Wani Ummer told NewsClick.
NewsClick spoke to Kashmiris residing in and outside the Valley to find out how their first conversation went after the cell service was restored. Many of them spoke of incomprehensible excitement and eagerness, while others spoke of the inconvenient truths and the grief.
Mustafizul recalled the first conversation he had with his father who failed to recognize him. “My first call was to Abbu; I was talking yo him after 70 days and it was painful as well as funny. The conversation started with a salaam and I immediately inquired about his health. While replying to that, he said ‘I am sorry, but I am not able to recognise you. Who are you?’ Shocked to hear this, I said, ‘how many sons do you have?’ He said ‘only one’ and to which I replied I am that son of yours,” he said.
“This is the scar of the siege that will remain with me forever. A father was not able to recognise his son,” added Mustafizul.
Shakeel Sofi, a doctor based in Kolkata, had to deal with the grief of losing his best friend. “I dialled the number of my best friend after two months to ask him about his health. He was suffering from brain tumour. The call was picked by his sister, who, in her choked voice, informed me that he is no more and It has already been 22 days. I was not able to gather myself. I couldn’t talk to him one last time,” Sofi told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, a social media update of a former Hindustan Times journalist went viral and amassed reactions from several Kashmiris. The status read, “Dialled her number after 70 days with all the energy, strangeness, eagerness, but above all with love. It was 3pm. A different voice answered from the other side. I understood it is her mom. I said salam to the aunty and enquired about her. Silence from the other side. I assumed that the phone network is weak that is why aunty didn’t hear what I said. The moment I repeated my sentence, she bursted into tears, sobbing like a child, crazy like a lunatic, tears flowing with cries. She is dead. Today is her 40th day.”
NewsClick contacted the former journalist who refrained from talking about his fiancé. The update elicited array of reactions, with most people saying that, “They will not forget.”