“Lake Lo is the oldest lake in Kashmir. The local legend says that the gods and goddesses used it as a channel to descend to Earth. They would slip down on the clouds or the rain and into Lo till they were prepared enough to face man’s world and breathe his impure air. So the Lake was like the mid-place between heaven and Earth. Of course, given the hype this created, many mortals tried to jump in and get a pathway to heaven, only to gasp for breath soon after they took the plunge. But thanks to the hold mythology had on people those days, they thought it was all a test to see if they were in fact worthy, and hence many lost their lives. Soon, destruction and massive warfare covered Kashmir, and the people said the gods were angry that their Lake was defiled by human corpses…”
Mister Jain spoke passionately about Lake Lo through the night. Nineteen stunned childish faces listened, rapt, immune to the loud creaking of the train or the wrath of the rain. One lone head pushed hard into the pillow it had been issued, trying desperately to block out the lecture, the tales he knew only too well.
Some holy Lake, he thought. The death bowl of hundreds, the curtain over senses, the age-long reminder that man only wants to be oppressed, and he prefers it be by the hand of God.
The Lake had been the forefigure in making Gautam a hardcore atheist. If God was the reason half the world hates the other, he hated God. Better still, he didn’t believe in one.
Gautam’s family came originally from the valleys of Kashmir. Gautam had been to his homeland just once, and the experience hadn’t been any good. He had lost a brother to the ‘patriotic’ army and a sister in an attack. But that was long before he was born, and he considered both of them as alien people, never having met them, never having understood them. Why stay and hope for peace at a place where people said they were at war with the terrorists when they couldn’t live in peace among themselves?
The trip too was something he forced into. See your homeland, his mother had said. I have seen enough, he had said. See it as a tourist, maybe you’ll like it better then. Why should I like it? Because it’s your home-. It’s not! Stop it! I will never…
Gautam knew what happened next in the tale. Only, Mister Jain chose to leave it out, and Gautam could hear nineteen inquisitive voices cry out for more. All right. You want more, huh?
“No… get some sleep all of you. End of tale.”
“C’mon Sir! What happened afterwards?!”
“I’ve told you all you need to know for this trip. And I’m not sure if I should have said that much in the first place. So, this is it, kids. No more to tell.” Mister Jain tried to scurry out of the situation. But Gautam had had enough.
“Fine! You want to know what happened next? Listen.”
Everyone turned to Gautam.
“The people, the devoted god fearing good citizens, went to the families of the people who had died in the Lake and burnt their houses. They then caught the people who ran out and dragged them by their hair or their legs to the Lake, drove a sword into their middle, through and through and then threw the bodies, flung them, into the same Lake. Of course, it was no problem that it made their dear sacred Lake dirtier, the revenge of the Gods’ was complete. Everything was right, once again. Everything was bloody right!” Gautam spat with fury he had felt every time he had heard his mother tell him the tale.
In a whisper Gautam continued, like a magician who knew he was now playing his trump card that wasn’t only breath-taking but so horrifying and so majestic that one could even lose all sense of the world.
“The news spread. People got interested. Tourism hit a new high, and religious leaders shot up like weed in every village and very street of the entire country. Some daring scientists thought if this Lake could make a new break in science, if it really was something special, they would hit it just right. So they went over, as pilgrims, buttered the locals into letting them visit, and took a camera hidden in a crewman’s shirt. But what they saw was better off without not taped. Word spread out that something had been recorded that was very top-secret. Two of the scientists on the trip took ill suspiciously, suddenly and there was a huge rave about the recording. The locals did everything in their power to deny everything, and for months no one could possibly visit that part of Kashmir, the locals had set up a ferocious civil army. But soon, someone sold the tape out for money and everyone knew. ”
Gautam looked at his classmates. Every one of them scared, paralyzed into silence. But he wasn’t done yet. Jain sir quiet, sitting low at the other end, he obviously knew the tale.
“The tape- was a recording of the Lake. There’s a lot of movement at first, and the camera wobbled. Then the scientists stopped at the edge of the Lake. It seemed they were just standing and looking because the tape stays like that for some time. Then, all of a sudden, some twenty metres up the shoreline, along the bank, some young Kashimiri boys start shouting. They seem to just have come, and they are playing. They start skimming stones. The scientists turn their attention to the boys, and a few local faces are caught on camera being worried. Someone is sent to shoo the boys away. But before he can get there, a tall boy picks up a very heavy rock and flings it, far into the Lake, near the scientists. He was only playing. But the rock he threw in moved so much water that a sharp white pole was seen sticking out of the Lake. More water shifted with the sudden disturbance, the area around the pole cleared… the water over it was swept away… and the clear outline of a human hand, a human skeleton stretched out into the air.”
Gautam drew in breath.
“Not three inches below the water surface was a bed of dead men and women, skeletons. The Lake was a graveyard. A dumping ground of a religious war. A pool, of bones, of human bones stripped of their muscle and skin at places, lumps still attached at some…”
Gautam stooped. There was nothing to go on about. Gautam slipped back into his seat. He slumped into a bundle, and set his head against the window. The rain seemed quieter. The carriage was dead silent. At least everyone now shared the despair. At least he wasn’t going to be told to click pictures of tourist spots, smile as if this was a vacation, hop from one place to another like a dumb bunny.
The lights went out in the carriage. Gautam kept looking out of the window. The train slowed at a checkpoint, and Gautam spotted a sign that read, simply- Welcome to Kashmir.
Please, thought Gautam.
Disclaimer: Completely Fiction. But then, is it?