Cacophony of Chaos

The street outside our house where PAVA shell exploded.

By Malika Kaloo

The sunset was painting the sky in the hues of deep orange and indigo, casting a peaceful gaze over the melancholic city. The tranquil evening sun presented a stark contrast to the turmoil that brewed beneath its serene façade. 

The air was thick with an eerie silence, anticipating the unknown. Huddled together in our cozy living room, taking sips of our regular evening tea, we were seeking solace amidst the growing unease. 

“Boom!” In a split second, a sudden, deafening sound shattered the silence of the twilight. The blast sent shockwaves through the room, causing the windows to clatter and our hearts to pound. Chaos, confusion and panic gripped us all. In no time, a thick, black cloud of smoke filled our house. The chilli gases released from the explosion stung our eyes and suffocated our lungs. Blasts, explosions, grenades, tear gas and bullets were all too familiar to us, but this was unlike anything we had ever encountered before. 

Khudaya Reham!,” [Oh God, have mercy on us!] I heard my mom scream. While everything around us was hazy, we scurried our way toward the basement, seeking refuge from the fumes. 

In that dimly-lit room, my wandering eyes desperately tried to make sense of the chaotic scene and just as they settled on my aunt, I saw her gasp for breath. At 25, she suffered from asthma and other medical conditions. Her fragility seemed to defy her age. Trembling with fear and an urge to breathe fresh air, I saw her struggling to survive. Her frail and vulnerable figure quivered as the gas-filled air settled in her lungs. With each passing second, we felt the weight of helplessness crushing us as we saw her choke. Then at that moment, she fainted and fell to the ground with a loud thump. This sound seemed scarier than the thundering sound of the blast itself, sending shivers down our spines. 

Unable to make sense of the circumstances, my sister and I clutched together and walked up the foggy stairs to get her some fresh water. As we trod carefully, the palpitations of our hearts synchronized with the turbulent rhythms of the uncertainty around us.

We somehow finally managed to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen and made our way back to the basement. The cool water sprinkled on her face seemed to give her a new lease on life as her eyelids began to move impulsively. 

She opened her eyes. 

A sigh of relief appeared on our faces. 

While we saw her coming back to life, there seemed to be no sign of respite for the conflict-ridden valley. As the harrowing smoke began to fade away, we went back to the living room, and glued our eyes anxiously to the television, desperate for any glimpse of news about the blast that ravaged our souls a few moments ago.

“Chilli-based PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) shells being used as a safer replacement to pellet guns in Kashmir for the first time,” flashed on our television screens.