This piece was first posted on "3 Quarks Daily". https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2016/08/friday-poem-3-6.html It is the boys, says the government man on the Indian TV who the parents should ask to stay away away from the streets and stones and sit, in front of lifeless computers in dark, Internet banned, phones shut, smeared with blood of their mates drinking milk-less tea, dry-eyed and stay calm [a must] pretend the chains they keel under are the gossamer-threads of democracy shamelessly woven over Casspirs, pellet guns, hiding the torn bodies of their dead, maimed tortured, disappeared and words they can’t speak or write on a butchered map a city full of peppered air, and bullets It is the boys, says the government man on the Indian TV who the parents should ask to stay away from the falcons perched in forests, that dream of flying higher than the walls freeing this open air prison, covered with razor wires, where Asiya and Neelofar drown, on that stretch of Rambaira nallah, shallower than shallow, where ducklings learn to swim It is the boys, says the government man on the Indian TV who the parents should ask to stay away placing the boys as if corner bricks in their edifice of tyranny, where the dying are made to dig their graves, and blamed, for dying and living, thinking It is the boys, says the government man on the Indian TV who the parents should ask to stay away as if the boys are naughty toddlers, enchanted by oddities as if their slogans are cuss-words that should not be used as if their longing for freedom is a deviance not a right as if Burhan is not our martyr like Bhagat Singh is yours, as if the forests of Tral are not our Sierra Meistra it is the boys, the government man should know – yes, the Kashmiri boys, and know well – those who are killed but their freedom lives those who lose sight but their vision lives those who stone the occupation without being occupied it is the boys that the government man on Indian TV should know – for, it is that, the boys in Kashmir grow every time your tyranny grows and know this: it is not only the boys … it is the girls, and everyone else II Don't bring any spice – for our last dinner together I will bring the only candle Some sundried tomato that a neighbor shared Warmed in borrowed mustard oil You bring chochwor, If at all, the baker in your alley opens today Don't bring any spice – My city, that bride-in-transit-and-eternal- siege [ravaged by a rabid army on the way to her beloved’s home] is laden with pepper tonight Don't bring any spice – for our last dinner together if you crave salt. we have tears III Take account the largest crowd prayed for Burhan and counting 50 and more funeral prayers and counting another sweet-faced martyr of Kashmir, and counting [the terrorist in the Indian papers: another lie and counting] The rain fell, mixing with tears and counting Third Eid evening, and counting Then they outdid tyranny, and counting 29 days days: 55 plus dead, and counting 4500+ maimed, and counting 100 and more eyes gouged, and counting Wounded chanting Azadi, and counting Mother’s lamenting their sons, and counting Burning, tears, police stations, and counting Tear gas, pellets, bullets, and counting Fool-words: India, internal matter, normalcy and counting Pakistan, UN complaints, paid agents, and counting It is time, stop counting, counting, counting Hear, the youth are taking account
This piece was first published on "Cerebration". https://www.cerebration.org/atherzia2.html The young girl in this story is looking out from the window, of what at one point must have been a large house, now divided into slim columns, probably amongst its heirs. Built with tiny scorched bricks that are held together by mud, the partitions are discernible by windows of different colors. Most of the homes in this town of Maisuma, which is called the heart of Kashmir, are conjoined like this, and at some visceral level are waiting to be separated from each other. The rundown building are worn with history and often lean dangerously exhausted against each other. Shops, industrial buildings, bus-yards, and garages stand entwined in this maze of a place which sits on the bank of river Jehlum that now has become an embittered swamp full of raw sewage and grease-oil. Broken parts of buses and trucks line the waters' edge where shanties erected by professional beggars, who pour into Kashmir during summers from mainland India, overflow with soggy bundles of clothes, cardboard, and pieces of random trash – found and pilfered for recycling. Sturdy pieces of metal have been turned into seats in the makeshift courtyards. Young garage hands come here to smoke and flirt with pan-handling girls, who are single-mindedly focused on lightening their pockets. Tangles of electric wires can be seen hanging over the narrowest alleyways, so low that the static buzzes in your ear and sparks (not the enlivening kind) fly. The girl in the window looking down on one such alley is reminiscent of a native scene from a postcard, someone sent from an inexpensive holiday. It is around lunch time. The air around the neighborhood is thick with the smell of green tea brewing in old copper pans, sweet frying onions and traffic smoke. Grandmothers are done with sunning themselves and cleaning collards on the slightly raised pavements, which doubles as their porch. Snatches from old Bollywood songs and pleading beggars mixes with the shouts of hawkers selling pain balm and cigarettes. Men are heading home for lunch; some bargain with the pickle seller on the alley corner, who swears by his mothers' grave to prove no cheap food color has been used, and that the mixture has been fermented for more than a month. Army bunkers sprawling at every nook and cranny are abuzz with gustatory activity too. Dogs congregate as they hear the dining trucks rolling in to feed the soldiers. They follow the tall stacks of aluminum boxes packed with sizzling hot lentils, meat, pickles, rice, and bread. The soldiers kick and hit their rumps with sturdy boots. The dogs yelp, keep distance and wait till the soldiers are ready to throw leftovers generously towards them. Our young lady is about 20 years of age. She has a waif-like face. A wisp of a scarf is stylishly perched on her hair. A soft wave of brown hair falls over the side of her face reminiscent of the Bollywood actresses. The white tunic that she wears, with small red tulips on the neckline and hem, which she has embroidered herself, remain hidden beneath the windowsill. Her eyes are fixed on the wooden lamp-post near the Masjid next-door. An old cough can be heard behind her and someone shouts. She seems to pay no mind. An all too close call for prayers booming through the public address system jars the air. A young man, also around 20 years of age appears at the mouth of the alley. The girl's face opens like a sunflower; it looks as if her prayer has been answered in advance. The boy wears a white T-shirt that says "Coke" in red— the brown bottle placed on the right side, just below his heart. A white skull cap covers his well-groomed hair. He leans against the lamp-post that is dangerously inclined. It tilts some more and the greasy bulb on top begin swaying only to still some seconds later. The girl always worries that the lamp-post might fall on him. The gutter gurgles around the boy's feet. He continues looking towards her, arms crossed against his chest, eyes intent and unsmiling. The girl always wants to see him a bit closer. Feel those hands that she has touched so many times in her dreams. She has seen him up close only once – the first time. She was buying dried Chilli powder from his father's grocery store. Everything smelled like turmeric, and some vague spice that never seemed to leave the shelves. His gaze was unbroken as he passed the packet of Chilli to her. She saw it had a hole, but could not summon the courage to ask for a different one. She felt rooted to the spot. After paying and forgetting to take the change, she broke into a run. She felt his eyes stuck to her back. Her hand was burning and stained red by the Chilli that escaped in tiny puffs with each hurried step. She sneezed the entire day. Her chest felt light and heavy. The world seemed awash in a golden haze. It had been four months since then, when she saw him for the first time. The boy began to come every day and linger around the lamp-post awhile. His eyes would keep darting towards her window. As the time for prayer drew close, he would mingle with other congregants, and then vanish into the Masjid. On the way out, jostling for exit, he would steal looks at her, while she peeped out of what now would be a half-closed window ready to be shut till the next afternoon. Then, in a flash he would be gone. She would spend the rest of her day reliving the thick slice of time that had stood between them. The silent minutes of their distanced tryst would unfold like a video in slow replay. Each moment was a lifetime of glances, yearning and inexpressible joy. Every moment spoke, as no word ever could. The next day would take forever to come. The pain in her heart would continue growing, only to abate a little when he appeared. After he was gone, her body would be filled with more and more agony. At night, she would peer out of the window. She imagined a silhouette walking towards her. Her reverie would be broken by the barking of dogs that were roused by patrolling army and the firm kicks and slurring shouts they delivered on everything that moved or not. Her mother's exasperated, muffled shout reminded her to close the window or face a bullet or worse. She saw that today, the boy did not stop at the lamppost but walked hurriedly towards her window. He raised his arm, and threw something at her. She ducked. It fell into the corner without a sound. Moving swiftly, she picked the soft sweaty ball of paper, crushed around a piece of clay. She opened it, trembling. It said - "I love you. I will die for you." It was written on the letterhead of the "Paradice Garage," where he probably worked. There was a picture of a black tire and a shining hand holding a wrench in the corner. The night was unending. The redness that appeared in her cheeks when she first read the note became deeper. She tried to write back. Nothing seemed adequate. In the end she repeated his dear words - "I love you, I will die for you". She tucked the well kissed note under the pillow. The clock seemed to be stuck at midnight. She filled the emptiness in her room with a litany of soft sighs, whispering "I love you, I will die for you." Her eyelids drifted shut. She saw herself hanging from the long hand of a giant clock, pulling it to move. She felt her feet dangling in air and there was nothing to catch her underneath. In a distance she heard slogans, shouting, and cries of all kinds. Shots rang in the air. She hung between her dream, and an eerie wakefulness, undecided where the dream ended and reality began. The morning arrived without the call to fajr prayers. Usually she would have welcomed the silence, without an entreating congregation at the Masjid rousing God's pre-dawn beneficence and her sleep-deprived ire (and probably the rest of the neighborhood's as well), but not today. The only sound she heard was the army jeep announcing the curfew. There was an order for "shoot at sight". Riots had started all around the valley after a young boy was beaten to death by the police. People were staging anti-India demonstrations and there were incidents of stone pelting. The soldiers fired on unarmed crowds and many were killed. Usually the girl would make hasty prayers much to her mother's consternation. "This does not seem to be a mark of patient bowing before the Lord, it seems more like an impatient bird pecking at the grain," her mother would say. Today the girl fell into frequent and prolonged prostrations. She shifted uneasily; thousands of needles seemed to prick her body. Her eyes kept darting towards the clock. The note which had her answer was balled tightly around a piece of clay and felt like hot metal in her hand. She longed to throw it to him. She wanted to see his face once he read it. At noon, she opened the window just a crack. Only a cow stood at the far end, chewing on a wet cardboard box. She heard noises from afar. Smoke rose in the slim crack of sky between the window panes. Suddenly a running figure appeared. It was him. Blood rushed into her face. Her hand fell and the window came ajar with a swift noise. There were shouts, curses, jangling, and running footsteps. A contingent of army-men in riot gear, their vizor-hidden faces and bodies, preceded by bamboo shields, were behind him like an unending camouflaged flurry. She threw the sweaty ball of paper towards him when he was near the window. Shots burst in the air and sparks flew. For a moment it felt like fireworks at a wedding. A strange and a very sharp heat bolted through her breast. The boy lunged at the paper-ball and smiled at her – for the first time ever. More shots, and then he fell. Her face sank into her chest as she saw the blood seeping into her tunic and the tulips which she had wanted him to see some day disappeared. She fell into one limp heap. Later, in the evening news bulletin, the boy and the girl were included in the list of stone-pelters killed that day. No one found the girl's note. It was probably mangled in the dirt, under the feet of running and falling crowds, which would not cease for days to come and still has not stopped. No one would ever know how well the young pair delivered on the one and only promise they made to each other in the alley of Maisuma where the gutter still gurgles below the tilted lamp-post. The window in which the girl stood looking at the only boy she ever loved, now remains open all day and all night.
This poem was first published on "3 Quarks Daily". https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2013/03/tuesday-poem-3-8.html Our wounds are labeled forgettable, Shahid Our life before death is imperceptible, Shahid Billboards proclaim, Kashmir is Paradise God has a reason to be chimerical, Shahid Memory threads tied to wooden roses at Khankah Even simple prayers are incomprehensible, Shahid At Naseem Bagh, your presence was ephemeral Now, your absence is a spectacle, Shahid Our laments are lost, our yearnings are empty Grief— the source of all that is poetical, Shahid. Fear has abandoned us; Hope has embraced us Yours are the best words in our arsenal, Shahid Your last illegible scrawl, an emblem of your name The Beloved Witness, grievable, indelible, Shahid.
This poem was first published on "Asian American Writers' Workshop". https://aaww.org/this-is-not-the-dawn-poetry-of-partition/#ZiaAther in the district, near what they insist is a border the dust is still uneasy on the graves, now only numbered dead-men’s shirts hang from the nearby trees untired flags touched by kids too young to know poetry the gash across the verdant body now even deeper, the glass map of our country, broken still i swear Shahid, i picked up where you left in this long war of learning our Kashmir only bleeds
The first ray of light was out , Filtering through the wooden windows frozen in cold. I had been waiting patiently watching through my room the first snowfall unraveling itself in its subtle way of domination over whole city. I had seen snow a lot of times by now, but every single time I am amazed by its serenity. The canvas of dark turning to morning has always been something I am intrigued by. You know how nature has its own way of telling stories. I have dreams that one day Ammi will be so proud of me and baba would have been too. My younger sister zainab and me fight all the time over who Ammi loves more. I take all her dolls and hide it in my cricket kit. She never gets to know about it. I know I am evil that way but I still love her and ammi says that baba left and gave me the responsibility to take care of zainab. I still don't know where baba went and when will he be back. Ammi says he will be back soon. You know when he does come back one day; I will tell baba of all the times zainab pulled my hair and took my sweets and, yes of course baba will come with me to my cricket matches. I have kept the ball baba gifted me when I was 7 in my locker. When he will be back we will play together. Till then I won’t let zainab touch it. Ammi is always scared of one thing or the other. She rechecks to lock the doors properly each night. Doesn’t let me go too far even when I am with friends. Sometimes I don't understand her but maybe that is how mothers are. I think she is scared of the wolves outside. I tell ammi that I am strong and I am 11 now, so she doesn’t have to worry about anything. Baba always thought I was strong and could take care of myself. I looked at him. Oh my dear son, how do I tell you of my plight For you were 8, Too young to understand evils might He was here, with me in the warmth of our home How will I ever tell you what happened that night? While you were sleeping oblivious to this sight I wish that door never was opened I wish it was me not him These eyes of mine witnessed grief that words can’t describe I saw him looking at me saying good bye with the same eyes that held my world tied I looked at him Trying to free myself from the restrain of these wolves Yes the same ones I warn you of Not animals, For animals have soul I couldn’t help him as they took him away from me I felt my life leaving me Taking along all that had warmth inside, from me I turned cold that day Died without dying I heard thunder after thunder They will never know what they have taken away from me I told you baba left for sometime How would I ever tell you what had happened? I still feel him in every breath I take I still hear his laughter in this place we had called home I hear him narrating his dreams to me How would I ever tell you what had happened? I can’t forget those eyes; which looked at me in desperation They had broken us into pieces I never knew how to fix back Oh my dear children, Each night I think As moments pass in deafening silence How could it have been any different? For them it was another fake encounter For me it was my world being shattered in front of me How would I ever tell you what had happened? This pain shall not leave me now Till I am returned to this soil of ours Which has soaked in, for years now Blood instead of water You hear the wind singing songs of grief The rain diluting the screams The sun to dry up the tears And yes The snow Of course, your snow my dear A cover up Of agonizing sorrow Penetrating the hearts Rendering them lifeless So tell me my dear? How would I ever tell you what had happened?
Zoon I sprint down the stairwell and rush through the backdoor I hear the cries of a hundred faithful; and a ten thousand more I don't hear, but feel cruising through my bones; my humble abode Has lost it's glow A forceful support, a willing support, it has disposed And so have all the huts and the houses and the bakers And the pharmacists and the general stores. I stand with emotions stirred wild and gaze aimlessly at the moon; zoon the trumpets of freedom play far away in the form of deranged loons, Crazed by the want of a freedom they've deemed a lie. Oh the stars are like little cottages in the lightless sky And the moon; zoon; joins hands to light up this night; With a display of a cosmic oneness they cry, And to it all, my heart replies.
A dull orange lulled me to dream Of saffron boiling in Samovars On the streets of Gulmarg. a convoy seems to scream in hushed hues of gunmetal on the streets of gulmarg Pamposh, yi josh kate chut onmut? Lotus, wherefrom comes this zeal of yours? Yours Carelessly, A Postcard from Gulmarg
I am an insecure 'man' Man coming from an insignificant 'land' Land filled with falsely accused 'people' People who you claim have ‘manipulated’, ‘manufactured’, ‘Pakistani identity’ Identity that has now our curse Curse that we were born there as Muslims Muslim, I believe that's where the problem lies Lies that you have constructed stating that we are not you You... It has all just become about you You, just you have the right to dream Dreams have now become a privilege Privilege that I don't have, we, collectively don't have there as people People from land I come just have will Will that just needs a kick to be shattered Shattered are our hopes Hopes of not having our kids blinded Blinded were thousands Thousands more have been killed Killed merciless by your army, later their families by the words of your media Media has made us your enemy Enemy for us now is your army Army All I have for you is silence . . . . Silence .... All I have for you is silence Silence Just silence And more silence Till that silence reverberates in your head, till your conscience cries out for mercy Mercy that we have been denied Denied has been the right to dignity Dignity of those you raped in Kunan Poshpura So dear army, let me get this straight I have been sitting in that corner, crying dead for long just like my martyred brother and sisters Tufail Andleeb Nilofer Zahid And countless others whose name Faces And ages you would never know But today, I won’t remain silent I will rise, I will rise, I will rise And I will fight I will fight With my fist up high And a stone in my hand, aiming directly towards you Which I am sure you will kill me for And then label me as a Pakistan influenced jihadi And the bunch of 8 year olds and 10 year olds you will kill alongside you will be call them ”collateral damage" Sometimes even worse "Pakistan's child soldiers" But when we die, We rest in our graves, all we will have for you again will be silence And more silence Just silence Till that silence The noise of it Makes you cry out for mercy Just like we have
Lo. Ye Dhuen Ka Gubaar fir se uthta hai Ab Ye Aag ki laptein jaane kisko jalayengi Naujawano ke khoon se likhi taareekh kaise bhula paaogey Un Benaam kabron par kaise hukumat chalaogey Zamane me Adil bane firte ho aisa humne suna hai Par, Darindgi or Dabish se jaane kon sa Mulk banaogey Lo. Ye Dhuen Ka Gubaar fir se uthta hai Ab Ye Aag ki laptein jaane kisko jalayengi Zahar Ghol diya waadi ki fiza mein fir kisi ne Jannat mein jahannam ka darwaza fir khol diya kisi ne Hamari subhon ka kya ab toh shamein bhi gulzar hoti hain Aur yaha woh daghdar ujala or shabghazeeda seher Jaise kabhi khatam nahi hoti hain Lo. Ye Dhuen Ka Gubaar fir se uthta hai Ab Ye Aag ki laptein jaane kisko jalayengi Tumhaari mulk parasti tumko hi Mubarak Khoon se seenchi zameen pe kaun si qaum dilshad hoti hai Keh do Muezzinon se ab koi or karobaar dhoond lein Naujawanon ke Janazey se yaha masjiden hamesha hi abaad hoti hain Lo. Ye Dhuen Ka Gubaar fir se uthta hai Ab Ye Aag ki laptein jaane kisko jalayengi Laazim hai sharm aana jab mazloom ko mujrim banaya jaaye Jab laashon ke upar ghar banaye jaaye, Jab insaaniyat ka qatl kiya jaaye Jo poochu khuda se ki who in zulmaat ke khilaaf kuch karta kyu nahi Jo pooch le wo ye sawal mujhse hi, Toh khud se bhi nazrein na milaya jaaye Lo. Ye Dhuen Ka Gubaar fir se uthta hai Aur jo ab tak jalte aaye hain Ye Aag ki laptein fir unko hi jalayengi
My brothers are bleeding My sisters are moaning My mother land is weeping Why my master, My sanctioned leader, Why do you turn your back on us, Why do you not see our tears. You call it sin I call it rebellion. It's not for dominance It's not for power It's just for our mere existence It's just to free our sons and daughters. The mud of Kashmir has turned crimson red But my overloard is still colour blind His black and white vision Has killed our souls His egoistic ambitions Has poisiond our kind. Stuck between this Cain and Abel fight I lost my soverginity We lost our dignity. Our fate was dictated Never created Our ideas were condemned Never endowed Our art was burned Never admired They tied our hands They cut our tongues But we will still act We will still shout Maybe not with words But louder than the loudest voice Till you hear our cry Till you acknowledge our fear Bharat ki barbadi tak nahi, Lekin Meri aazadi tak, Jung rehegi, jung rehegi.