Friendships are often defined by sharing. To share what brings joy and happiness. The word conjures laughter and good times and support. That’s the image of friendship that marks our growing up years and if we are lucky enough to carry those friendships into our adulthood, eventually, we grow to accept our eccentricities and quirks too.
But in Kashmir, when we were growing up, there was something far more dominant than eating or studying together in college and school, bitching about popular students or impersonating teachers which made for great anecdotes later leaving behind a trail of memories that one looked back at with tenderness.
In Kashmir, we shared silences. In these silences, we offered each other the safe space needed for survival. When a friend of mine (whose father had been assassinated) and I took a walk together to the houses of our respective relatives ) since we couldn’t take a bus to downtown Srinagar as the whole area was under siege), we spoke about the day at school, weekly assignments, worried about not going home that day, ate ice-creams. But our conversation was punctuated with silences and pauses. We took great care to circumvent anything that could lead us to talk about her family.
The silence between us that day wasn’t indifference but protection. A refuge in which we shielded each other from a moment of intense pain or for her to relive suffering. At fifteen years of age, life had taught us that friendships were not always about communicating through words but sometimes the unspoken carried more comfort. Silences kept us safe
(As told to Naseer Ganai)