IN KASHMIR, IT IS THE BOYS

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 

LOVING, DYING (OR BEING KILLED)

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.

LAST SIGNATURE

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.

KASHMIR ONLY BLEEDS

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

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

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. 

 

AN INSECURE MAN

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

DHUEN KA GUBAAR

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

KASHMIR SHOUTS

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. 
Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started