Photo adapted from Alexander Andrews / Unsplash.
Photo adapted from Alexander Andrews / Unsplash.

As normal as it gets

A Kashmiri family tries to talk.

An Indian soldier stands on a street corner in Kashmir, where he randomly stops a passer-by to demand an ID card. Why? It never occurs to the man to ask. Rather, he dutifully reaches into his pocket and retrieves his ID card. The soldier looks at it, matching the photo against the man's face, satisfied, he motions the man onward. Although this may no longer happen with the kind of regularity it happened back in the 1990s and early 2000s (at least prior to the abrogation of Article 370) there are far more effective tools of mass surveillance in place now, once in a while even today is enough to keep you on your toes, to keep you from lapsing into complacency. The irony of this ritual, of a man from hundreds of miles away demanding you prove your identity to him, in your own homeland, no less, may no longer register for many Kashmiris, but its power to shape and influence our lives continues to remain strong.

One thing my parents almost always ask me when I go out is if I have my ID card on me. It doesn't matter if I'm only stepping out to go to the greengrocer's or to get milk. They can't help asking. It has become reflexive by this point. A normal parents thing for them to do, like fussing over my dishevelled hair or complaining about my 'worn old man corduroys'. And God forbid if my phone ever runs out of juice: they worry themselves sick, especially my father, who finds himself incapable of doing anything except pacing around the house until I come home or return their calls.

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Himal Southasian