In a rare time to witness, Kashmir is under lockdown with the internet stuck in the loop of life. But this time Kashmir is not alone–about three billion people around the world are confined inside their homes to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The streets in Kashmir had barely gotten back to life after the August clampdown and communication blackout, when the Central government broke down the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Now the unprecedented global health situation has again made people sit inside their homes. 4G internet connectivity remains cut off since August 2019, despite repeated calls and campaigns. Life here is clinging on via 2G internet. Buffering still remains a cause of suffering.
Social media trends, captured by hashtags like #StayHomeStaySafe and #BreakTheChain, testify to a global sense of self-isolation. Top streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, and YouTube, fearing an internet gridlock, have restricted their platforms to downgraded video quality on smartphones.
So, given all of that, The Kashmir Walla asked young Kashmiris confined to their homes: What are you doing?
Nida Farooq, 26, Pulwama (south Kashmir)
How did you react when you heard of another lockdown?
I had flown to Kashmir in the first week of March from Delhi because I could foresee this lockdown. Unlike earlier [August] lockdown, this time I was mentally prepared. But when it was announced, my first reaction was: how will I use my phone? If I don’t go outside, what will I do at home?
How has it changed your day-to-day life?
The schedule is completely changed. I wake up late in the morning and spend the rest of the day worrying about not being productive at all. And you can’t talk to family all day; to divert myself I read, surf on social media, and watch videos. Right now, I’m reading The Mystic and The Lyric [a compilation of classic poetry by Kashmiri women]; I’m reading it slowly because I don’t have many books either.
But we’ve been in lockdown for too long and it has started taking a toll on me.
What kind of toll?
I sit alone in the room and swipe global news reports: this many positive cases, this many died. At the same time, there are conflicting perspectives at my home because of the generational gap. I try to make my parents understand certain things but they don’t get it. My father always opposes me and it disturbs me.
For instance, I tell my father not to go to Mosque for prayers–but he would tell me to have faith in Allah. He won’t listen to me. I understand that he is from a different time as well.
What have you been struggling with lately?
Sanitary pads. I’m out of them and I cannot go outside to buy them either. There is no one on the streets except forces personnel. I somehow asked my father but he was stopped by the forces on his way also. I asked someone to buy them for me but seemingly Pulwama is out of them.
Sahir Yawar, a 20-year-old YouTuber from Shalteng, Srinagar
Is this lockdown any different?
When this lockdown was imposed, I thought that there would be less traffic and people on roads. But it is completely opposite. After reading news I’m so afraid that I haven’t even seen the road outside my gate.
It is not like earlier hartals, where we would roam around in relaxation hours. Forget about leaving home, I’m afraid of going to the washroom for loo. I’m sanitizing everything for the entire day. I ask my brother to maintain the distance and my mother asks me to. You see how different it is.
What do you do sitting at home?
Initially, I couldn’t go out to shoot [for his YouTube channel, Kashmiri Kalkharab] so I’m just watching videos and shooting inside the home to whatever extent it is possible. But I was so bored that I opened another YouTube channel of my own. I’m producing vine there–it’s not professional but just for fun and to find an escape from boredom.
Everyone is sitting at home. Has your audience increased?
Yes it has but many people cannot watch our video because of 2G internet connectivity. When I’m not shooting, I’m looking at fake news regarding the restoration of 4G internet connectivity (he laughs).
But right now, staying at home is the only, as well as wise, option. So, I’m settling down with it out of fear.
Rozina Shafi, a 20-year-old college student from Srinagar
How are you feeling?
Lockdowns are embedded in our psychology. I understand that this lockdown is different, and for our good, but personally, I don’t feel good. We haven’t attended classes for months now. I barely went to college for a couple of days and this lockdown happened. Our education suffers every time.
However, I keep myself motivated to stay inside because the more we venture outside our homes more this lockdown will be prolonged. At the same time, there is the uncertainty–again–of how long this will last?
Where do you find your escape?
Well, nowhere. There is no escape but just telling ourselves that it’ll pass and come to an end.
Zuhaib Zadoo, a 19-year-old student in Srinagar
What are the struggles in home quarantine?
When I wake up, I think of my routine life and think what to do for the rest of the day? I sit idle. Then? I sit. And I keep sitting for the rest of my day. It is not like earlier hartal where I can play outside my home–there is no one to play with. I don’t go to anyone and no one comes to my house. Total social distancing.
Also, I’m a smoker and I have cravings. I try to sneak out but now my family locks my room so I don’t run away. Yesterday, I jumped from my window to buy a pack of cigarettes. That’s an altogether different struggle.
Ugh–I can’t see my girlfriend either. There are so many struggles.
What do you do in idleness?
I juggle between the social media applications – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And I play PUBG [Mobile]. A lot. But it lags on 2G and a couple of days ago I was so frustrated that I uninstalled the game. Inside the locked room, I beat my head on the wall out of frustration.
This virus is not only killing people but also pushing them into depression.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Published in arrangement with The Kashmir Walla.