Peaches

by Arif Ayaz Parrey

Can I tell how much I love peaches?
Not ordinary ones
But those plucked from
The orchards along Jhelum

The ones in the basket before me
Are nebrim for sure
But they blush like a home-grown innocence
And hold as many juicy promises

I wonder what tree bore them
I wonder if it’s wise to ignore them

The tree of life
Has many buried roots

It is said that my only son
Was killed under the canopy
Of the branches of one such tree
By the army
Also known as the security forces
An old joke
What do they secure
These so-called security forces?
Not the people, not our lives, not our liberty
Not our sentiments, nor our emotions, not our sanity
Not our sons who are shot
Nor our daughters who are raped
Not the truth, not the facts, not humanity

They try to secure a crumbling empire
Inside whose majestic falling columns
And spectacular failing galleries
They make films, write long reports
Employ an army of images
To portray us as “deviants,” as “miscreants”
Who need to be brought back to the “mainstream”
They say Independence is a dream
It is sedition
In addition
Torture and brutality is just grapevine
They will not hesitate to define
The murder of my only son as a fib
Perhaps his life was a rumour
All this they keep saying
In dead good humour

Can I tell how much I love peaches?
Not ordinary ones
But those plucked from
The orchards along Jhelum

My son is dead
So strange notions come to my head
When I size one peach up
What if it blushes
On the shame of my son’s blood
When I sink my teeth in
Out comes a soft whisper
Hai Mauji logum hai!
[O Mother, it hurts!]
Which is what he must have said
Certainly
When he was killed under the canopy
Of one such tree
By the army
The juice in my mouth
Tastes like my son’s brisk small talk, I used
To call him my Kangri, my fire-pot
Because he kept me so hot
On Kashmiri winter nights
When we did shaalfa
As I narrated the tales of Akkanandun to him
Kangri, fire-pot
Really his memory does burn me up

Can I tell how much I love peaches?
Not ordinary ones
But those plucked from
The orchards along Jhelum

When they offer us their peaches
We contemplate
And then come to the plate
They chuckle, thinking
“Fellows with a voracious appetite
Gave up their fight”
Nobody tells them
Nobody is there to tell them
That we are hoarding the pips
As beads of remembrance

For when our own season comes
And our own reason ripens
We’ll put their empire on its death-bed
Take the rosary of our collective memories
Go one by one over the beads
And offer their final prayers

Can you tell how much I love peaches?
Not ordinary ones
But those plucked from
The orchards along Jhelum
They make sense
Like Freedom.

Glossary:

Nebrim: A Koshur (Kashmiri language) word whose meaning is a complex combination of the word “outsider” (geographically and otherwise) and the existential “Other.”

Kangri: An object traditionally used to keep warm in the harsh winters of Kashmir.  It consists of a bowl-shaped terracotta interior that contains live charcoal and an intricately-woven wickerwork exterior and handle, to be held inside the loose Kashmiri tunic called pheran.

Shaalfa: The act of sharing a Kangri, where the elders keep it under their pheran and the young ones put their feet over it.  A traditional motif of affection.

Akkanandun: In Kashmiri folklore the only brother among seven sisters.  Apple of one’s eyes.

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6 thoughts on “Peaches”

  1. //My son is dead
    So strange notions come to my head
    When I size one peach up
    What if it blushes
    On the shame of my son’s blood
    When I sink my teeth in
    Out comes a soft whisper//

    Huma, that was so heartbreaking.

    I don’t think I can legibly recall the number of times I think that when I walk on grass, gaze at daisies, or feel the cool breeze and wonder how many atoms, essences were a part of these injustices. Its just too.. sad… It becomes difficult to think of the universe and the world as patrt of a whole..

    Lovely, beautiful, painful poem, thank you.

  2. Dear Rabeea’h: this poignant poem is from the strong pen and soft heart of Arif Ayaz Parrey! I had wept upon first reading the poem… Given the current international muffling of any news coming out of Kashmir and its troubles with the oppressive Indian occupation (can an occupation ever be otherwise?) I felt it was necessary for all kinds of Kashmiri voices to be heard.

  3. Most heart rending. For a moment I thought it was about another place. It could easily fit many such around the world, wars and occupations in the name of the imperial power.

  4. BEHIND THE UN RESULUTION:
    Wonderful poetry may Lord provide you Peace.

    It is very unfortunate that Kashmiris are facing brutal military occupation since 1947. The biggest democracy is silent about it and so the human rights organizations.

    Some of the comments from ex Prime minister of India are very interesting to analyze how Indian governments were and are involved over the time in politicizing and not solving this issue.

    “We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmir people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite………..”
    “Ultimately, the final decision of settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir…….”
    • JAWAHARLAL NEHRU
    (Statement at Press Conference in London, 16 January 1951, The Statesman, 18 January 1951).

    “But so far as the Government of India is concerned, every assurance and international commitment in regard to Kashmir stands.”
    • JAWAHARLAL NEHRU
    (Statement in the Indian Council of States; 18 May 1954).

    The most popular demand of the Kashmiris from the civilized world is that, to resolve the issue as per the wishes of Kashmiris, and UN should make efforts to get the issue resolved. After all, it is mandated to do that and has passed OVER TWENTY THREE RESOLUTIONS on Kashmir resolution.

    By no means, Kashmir should be treated like Naxalite problem, India is facing in its north and northeastern parts. Occupied Kashmir is not part of the India; therefore, its inhabitants are struggling against a foreign occupant for their freedom, that it is their legal right as per the charter of UNO.

    The world should therefore, be absolutely clear that, India should not treat Kashmir like its internal insurgency problems, it facing in nine states, all demanding independence from the Indian Union.

    As per Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, the Executive Director, Kashmir Centre Washington said that, “Kashmir situation represents a Government’s repression not of a secessionist or separatist movement but of an uprising against foreign occupation, an occupation that was expected to end under determinations made by the United Nations.”

    The Kashmiris are not and cannot be called separatists, as Dr. Manmohan Singh alleges because they cannot secede from a country like India to which they have never acceded to in the first place.” Furthermore, since the bilateralism between India and Pakistan has not worked, therefore, participation of a third party like UN has become mandatory for the solution of the Kashmir issue.

    Awakening of the world conscious is the need of hour. Closing of the eyes and ears by the international community on the ongoing massive human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir by Indian security forces would not end the issue. Rather the seething protest against Indian human rights violation would endanger the world peace to an extent that may be unimaginable until now, as India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed countries. Therefore, the UNO and major powers must pressurize India to immediately end the human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir, pullout its brutal security forces and resolve the issue as per the wishes of Kashmiri subjects in the light of UN resolutions. This would bring peace and stability in the region as well at the global level.

  5. Kamil: yes, one is reminded of Palestine, Chechnya, Assam, Jharkand, Waziristan, and so many other places…

    Tahir: you are absolutely right, except that like the famous poet, Agha Shahid Ali, most Kashmiris count the date of the start of their occupation to 1586 when the Mughal forces invaded Kashmir and ousted the last indigenous ruler, Yusaf Chak. Since then it has been one oppressive regime after another.

  6. A blast of emotions, upon reading the poem.

    “For when our own season comes
    And our own reason ripens
    We’ll put their empire on its death-bed
    Take the rosary of our collective memories
    Go one by one over the beads
    And offer their final prayers”

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