‘Growing up in Kashmir, we were scared of the light’

Farah Bashir’s powerful debut is a memoir of her girlhood in the shadow of insurgency in Kashmir, told from the perspective of her teenage self

May 15, 2021

In one of the many chilling episodes that appear in her powerful memoir, Rumours Of Spring, Farah Bashir describes being jolted into wakefulness by a buzzing noise in the middle of the night while she was staying with her aunt Nelofar’s family in Srinagar in the 1990s. Bashir’s cousin, Afshan, whispered to her that those were motorboats sailing on the lake nearby, with troops “checking for suspected militants and their hideouts”. Before long, an intensely bright light pierced the girls’ bedroom, “through the thickest of crewel curtain”, reducing Bashir’s younger cousin, Nida, to a whimpering mess. “When I was Nida’s age, only darkness scared me,” Bashir writes, a crisp and stabbing indictment of the circumstances that shaped her “girlhood in Kashmir”.

We return to this comment when we speak recently on video. In the 1990s, with curfews imposed for months on end, “You couldn’t switch on the television because it emitted light (for fearing of drawing attention),” Bashir says. And so, the transistor radio became her family’s refuge—especially, for her, the songs it broadcast would usher in a semblance of normalcy. To this day, Bashir says, she gravitates towards music in her most difficult hours. For instance, while working on a chapter where she describes the death of a cousin a week after his sister’s wedding, “it was music that rescued me”, Bashir says. The seeds of her love for music were sown as she sat in dark rooms, with the radio playing. “Most children are scared of the dark,” Bashir says. “When we were growing up (in Kashmir), we were scared of the light.”



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