For Fahad *, years of his childhood are a painful memory of being confined to the four walls in his room. Since the past six years, he has been a serious patient of depression. Now an MBA student, he is in his early 20s and has a golden medium-sized beard.
The scuffles between his parents on a daily basis and his father’s strictness towards him haunt him to this day. The humiliation of getting beaten every day, of not being allowed to go out to meet friends and the unbearable pain of becoming the target of one of the parents has been too much for him to handle.
Originally from Syria, Fahad was a little boy when his family decided to move to Srinagar. As he grew up and started school, he got a chance to move away from a vile atmosphere. He made friends and played sports with them. These were his good days. At home, everything was the same, but he focused on his studies. His sister was the same age as him, so he had a tough competition at home as well as in school.
During his childhood, Fahad made a special friend named Sana*. Sana lived next door and went to the same school as him. She used to wait for Fahad on the main road and they would go to school hand in hand. Sana used to be his companion during their long walks and in mischief. They would laugh at jokes together, do funny things and would visit each other on special occasions.
They used to call each other during their holidays to discuss homework and family matters. She used to listen to his problems like a mother listens to her child’s. Fahad used to cry like a baby on her shoulder and tell her about how rude his parents were to him.
He remembers the way she would run after him with a charming smile on her face, desperate to hit him on the back just for fun.
“She had a scar on her neck and I used to tease her about that,” said Fahad with a slight smile on his serious face.
Unfortunately, the good days were short lived and Sana suddenly disappeared. This was when Fahad had just passed his class 12 examinations. He had tried to call Sana but didn’t get an answer. He came to know that she had left the place. Fahad was unable to express his grief over losing the most important person in his life.
His parents used to be busy with their own heated arguments and his sister would remain silent. He’d lose his temper over the smallest of issues. He used to grumble in his room and then cling onto an old cushion and cry like a baby.
Fahad has not seen Sana ever since.
The 21-year-old I met at a playground in Srinagar has a serious face and rarely smiles. We sat on the ground and in front of us were hundreds of boys playing different sports. He looks at the players and says, “ I want Sana back and want her to listen to my issues the way she used to when we were children.”
The words he said made me think of hundreds of young people in the valley who are suffering from a similar tragedy. Sana’s face may have faded away from his memory but his anger remains.
“I used to hear voices all around me. That used to irritate me a lot,” says Fahad. He confessed that once he even tried to kill his father due to these unwanted voices. He was diagnosed with serious depression last July. The only thing Fahad has held onto is his search for Sana. The hope of getting her back works as a balm on his wounds.
As I glanced through his laptop bag, I found different medicines. He said,“Everyday when I wake up I have to swallow these first and be ready for a long day”. As we said our goodbyes, he said, “Don’t worry about me, I am used to it now”.
* Names have been changed.