by Manash Bhattacharjee
To Najeeb MubarkiKashmiris will murmur the blessed word, Shahid, when the Beloved no longer has to witness Shahid. The day Paradise was lost, who was at the gates? We only know boots of Hell marched in Shahid. Rizwan couldn’t return to console his father – he found refuge for days in your nightmares Shahid. The Beloved left behind growing nights of sand and stars never slept in your deserted eyes Shahid. Mother’s death flung you into longing’s hollow arms. Love’s ironic fate earned you her illness Shahid. Parvati’s anklets, eons later, rang on Lal Ded’s feet. Their echoes now shiver against gunshots, Shahid. Tele-visionaries ask of Kashmir’s future in deaf rooms, blind to the writing on Kashmiri foreheads Shahid. If tender blood is torn without fuss in the streets, can you blame the rain for raining stones, Shahid? The Owl of Minerva descends on Srinagar’s dusk – to find philosophy’s broken arms in prayers of Shahid. Ghani dusted off Aurangzeb’s offer from his shoulders. Not Mughal lures but Kashmiri rues stirred him Shahid. The flutter of merchandise baffled Ghalib’s eyes. The capitalising of Paradise was plain to you Shahid. You reproached God for His Freudian denial of Satan. You veiled the lover – but spoke of the angels – Shahid. I wish I met you under Kashmir’s Andalusian skies, the infant moon putting mothers to sleep. The vermilion dawn follows us to the teashop and time’s excuses flower in our pockets, Shahid. Friends ask Manash, “What draws you to Shahid’s poems?” I say, “The fabric and the memorial of loss in Shahid”.
Manash Bhattacharjee is a poet and scholar living in New Delhi.
For Agha Shahid Ali, Kashmiri-American Poet, on the 10th anniversary of his death: February 1949—December 2001.