People have called me certain names ever since I was little.
At my school in Kashmir, everyone would call me Japanese or “Japani.” Even teachers remembered me as “the Japanese girl”. Image Source: Author’s Collection
Though I didn’t mind, my mum did a little. She didn’t like the fact that they wouldn’t remember my real name; it was the most common name in the history of names, yet they never used it.Image Source: Author’s Collection
In Kashmir, I didn’t look Indian enough, and then when I moved to Japan, I didn’t look Japanese enough. I think that’s what you get when you are a product of mixed ethnicities. When people asked me where I was from, they would never let me finish–instead, they would play a guessing game, which I consider very rude, to be honest. But when it was actually my turn to tell them, I didn’t know what to say. India or Kashmir? Kashmir is a part of India, yes, but every time I said India I felt a pang of guilt for all those people who die every day fighting to be an independent nation.
So I would say Kashmir and when the question came up to where Kashmir was, I would reply “between India and Pakistan.”
Don’t get me wrong–I love India and I have a lot of Indian friends but unless you have lived in Kashmir you will probably never understand what it is like.
I lived in the city so I was always safe, but when I watched the news it scared me how thousands of people died because of this war. At first, I never respected them. I would feel sad someone died but that would mean I got a week off from school so I used to get over it. All of my friends wished for curfews but we wouldn’t think what we were actually wishing for–someone to die? I used to think of stone pelters as wreckless fighters who didn’t do good at school and they would just go out and get themselves killed, but as I grew up and moved away from that place I realized how wrong I was. Just because I didn’t have a patriotic bone in my body, I started judging everyone who did.
Zaina Kadal (Downtown Kashmir)
Downtown Kashmir during the protest (2016).
War as a terminology was always pointless to me. A lot of people died in them and if lost, all of it was for nothing but I never said anything because I knew how disrespectful it was. I don’t know when the war will end, when people my age will stop dying, when 15-year-olds will be able to study and not get blinded, and when people will stop growing without their fathers, but I pray it ends.
And when it does I won’t have to question where I come from and live between India and Pakistan ever again.