By Gurmehar Kaur:
“Who am I?”
A question I could’ve answered without any inhibitions or a trace of wariness in my standard, cheerful tone, only a few weeks back. Now, I’m not so sure.
Am I who the trolls think I am?
Am I what the media portrayed me as?
Am I what those celebrities think of me?
No, I can’t be any of that. That girl you saw flashing all over your television screens, holding a placard in hand, eyebrows raised, gaze fixed at the tiny round lens of a cellphone camera, definitely looked like me. The intensity of her thoughts that reflected in the picture definitely had traces of me. She looked fiery – I relate to that.
But then, the ‘breaking news headlines’ told a different story. The headlines were not me.
I’m my father’s daughter. I’m my Papa’s Gulgul. I’m his doll. I’m a two-year-old artist who did not understand words, but did understand stick figures, which he drew in letters addressed to me. I’m my mother’s headache, her opinionated, reckless, moody child – a reflection of her. I’m my sister’s guide to pop-culture and her sparring partner before the big matches. I’m also the girl who sits on the first bench during lectures with intentions of interrupting the teacher and starting fiery debates on anything and everything – just because literature is more fun that way. My friends kinda like me, I’m hoping. They say my humor is dry but does work on certain days, and I can live with that. Books and poetry are my solace.
I am a bibliophile and the library at home is overflowing. My biggest concern for the last few months has been on how to convince mom to let me shift her lamps and picture frames to create another shelf.
I’m an idealist. An athlete! A ‘peacenik’! I’m not your angry, vindictive, war-mongering bechari (helpless person) you’d hoped me to be. I don’t want war because I know its price – it’s very expensive. Trust me, I know better because I’ve paid it everyday, and still do. There is no ‘bill’ for it. Maybe if there was, some wouldn’t hate me so much. Numbers make it more believable.
The news channel polls screaming “Is Gurmehar’s pain right or wrong?” – with a certain vote-ratio as a result – makes so much more sense to the normal public!
And hey! What’s the value of our suffering in front of that? If 51% people think I’m wrong, then I must be wrong. In that case, god only knows who’s polluting my mind.
Papa is not here with me – he hasn’t been for 18 years. My limited vocabulary of about 200 words learnt new words such as ‘death’, ‘war’ and ‘Pakistan’ on the days following August 6, 1999. For obvious reasons, it did take me a few years to actually understand their ‘implied’ definitions. I say ‘implied’ because, honestly, does anyone even know their ‘true’ meaning? I live it, and I’m still trying to figure it out especially in the sense of the world.
My father’s a martyr, but I don’t know him like that. I know him as the man who wore big cargo jackets with pockets full of sweets, whose stubble scratched my nose every time he kissed my forehead and as a teacher who taught me how to sip from a straw and introduced me to chewing gum. I know him as my father.
I also know him as the shoulder which my tiny self clung to, extremely tightly, hoping that if I held him strongly enough he wouldn’t go. He went. He just didn’t come back.
My father is a martyr. I’m his daughter.
I am not your “martyr’s daughter”.
This post has been republished from the author’s personal blog with permission.