On the way to school
One barricade, two barricades, three barricades
Green is Pakistan
Saffron is India
And blood is red
It is little Zuni’s new charade
The way she learns counting and recalls a color’s name
I do not know whom to blame
In the last three decades, a lot has changed
I often think…
Should I live by my faith?
Follow the rules of the state?
Nowadays, in my homeland
Everything looks strange
Suddenly my son exclaims!
I look at him, barely a teen
Who thinks of himself as a Mujahideen.
Like Zuni, he is adjusting
Amidst all this rift;
He narrates stories of
Love, fear, terror, faith, and frustration
Compelled to believe in the rhetoric of two nations.
To Choose state over oneself
Questioning his faith
And sacrifices of many generations.
My son contests the occupation
And I live in-between spaces of resistance and negotiation.
He tells me –
A rock out of a Sangbaaz’s hand shows his frustration,
Ruptured rhythms of life are not some aberration.
I see half-widows,
A constant struggle to survive
And I wonder what this means…
Should I not cry?
Will my Kashmir ever bloom?
Amidst all this rift and chaos
My body in some tormented night
Aches with pain,
Crying many names
On the loom of what is left of my Kashmir
Weaves some dreams.
Dreams of life without curfews
Life without the tags of troubled and normal
Where Identity cards are not must
Where Vistata[ii] does not wait for Vyath Truvah[iii]
Where a father does not read Fatiha for his son
Where a mother does not hold a placard
Waiting for her loved ones
Where disappearances, deaths, and detentions
Don’t force us to live in a siege having many apprehensions
Where Pandits live in vicinity and do not question our intentions.
All such emotions exist
But amidst our precarious existence
We hear Vakhs of Lal Ded[iv]
Giving us hopes, building resilience.
Suddenly, I hear a gunshot
My wife cries – Tufail my son…
I see nothing but color red
And some ‘Alleged perpetrators’[v]
As once my son had said.
Fourth and final- someone shouts
And Zuni learns a new numeral
The number “four”!
[i] Stone Pelter
[ii] Kashmiri name for river Jhelum, which flows through Srinagar city
[iii] Birthday of river Vitasta, celebrated every year by Kashmiri Pandits.
[iv] Poems (Vakhs) composed by Lalleshwari, a Kashmiri mystic poet popularly known as Lal Ded. Her verses, written in the Kashmiri language, are considered an integral part of Kashmiri literature; and have a deep impact on Kashmiri society.
[v] This report was prepared by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons documenting the alleged perpetrators of serious human rights violations in Kashmir Valley. Available at https://kashmirprocess.org/reports/alleged_Perpetrators.pdf