Window To My City

By Feroz Rather

Illustration by Showkat, a Srinagar-based painter and artist

By the River Jhelum, my window opens into the city of Srinagar at noon. It is a trellis window. Its wooden motifs are rhomboidal, our patient improvisations of what they were, many centuries ago, in Samarkand. Over the soldiers’ sand-bagged bunker and the tangles of wire, over the roof shingles of houseboats moored in the muddy water, it overlooks a road, dusty and strewn with stones, busy with life, the leisurely passage of buses.

The window fills with the clamor of the city centre, Lal Chowk, from the rear: honking of cars, shouts of bus conductors, of vendors selling lotus stems and water nuts, the jingle of bangles on the arms of women, hobnobbing of old men, whistles of the policemen on prowl. It listens in the songs of Habeh Khuton, sad and reminiscent of the color of saffron from Pamper from the corner where you find late poems of Azad, fresh copies of Curfewed Night, fake pieces of Bombay music.

Continue reading “Window To My City”

Kashmir, of dreams and nightmares

by Burhan Qureshi

Blurred Memories.  photo credit: Huma Dar, 2006
Blurred Memories. photo credit: Huma Dar, 2006

My mother comes from a sleepy village in north Kashmir.  It is, indeed, picturesque.  At times when she sits me down and tells me the stories of her childhood, she takes me into a dreamland.  Her house there is on a hillock, a gushing clear stream runs at its foothills.  There are vast fields on either side of the road.  She tells me of the orchard where the finest apples grow, of the walnut trees in her garden that she used to climb (in fact, she taught me how to eat the raw, green colored walnuts, which if you know the trick, taste even better).  And when she tells me that she used to swim in that stream, my heart skips a beat.  I fall in love with her all over again.

Continue reading “Kashmir, of dreams and nightmares”

Shahid: A Ghazal

by Manash Bhattacharjee

To Najeeb Mubarki

Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001)
Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001)
Kashmiris 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.
Continue reading “Shahid: A Ghazal”

A Passport Of The Country Without A Post Office

The genocide in Kashmir is not over yet, but the land fertilized by the blood of innumerable, amaranthine martyrs is blossoming bouquets of tulips and roses in quick succession. New possibilities of spring, of poetry, of Azadi, of freedom, of peace are here, and they are unstanchable. I wish you were here, Shahid: Beloved, Witness, and perhaps with the slip of tongue, even Shahd, or Honey.

by Huma Dar

Passport to The Country Without A Post Office
Passport to The Country Without A Post Office

I met Shahid between noon and one pm, in the Lipman Room of Barrows Hall, almost exactly thirteen years ago, on December 3, 1998.  He’d come to recite from The Country Without A Post Office (1997) for the Lunch Poems Reading Series at UC Berkeley.  His jokes, tinged with a very particular Kashmiri black humor — irreverent, risqué, ridiculous — mirrored my family’s wacky one.  All that heartache about Kashmir, finding not many kindred souls around, found solace in Shahid’s scriptured lament, “After the August Wedding in Lahore, Pakistan.”

A brigadier says, The boys of Kashmir
break so quickly, we make their bodies sing,
on the rack, till no song is left to sing.
“Butterflies pause / On their passage Cashmere –”
And happiness: must it only bring pain?
The century is ending.  It is pain
from which love departs into all new pain:
Freedom’s terrible thirst, flooding Kashmir,
is bringing love to its tormented glass.
Stranger, who will inherit the last night
of the past?  Of what shall I not sing, and sing?

Continue reading “A Passport Of The Country Without A Post Office”

Poem: Dry Fruit and Nuts

by Amjad Majid

When you are away
I see the night running
away with my days
In oblivion seasons change
and tell me it is time
to harvest and gather.

From orchard to orchard,
I strain my poise in gloom,
branches pat my head,
consoling me obtrusively,
as I garner what they bear,
morosely I am stealing
what some call taking
for the giving,
but not for the sale…

Continue reading “Poem: Dry Fruit and Nuts”

A Call from Home

By Majid Maqbool

Checking a Kashmiri Youth’s ID Card

“Card chukha seath thavaan?”

(Do you carry the ID card with you?)

Mother worries over frequent phone calls

Away from home, home enters questions

‘Identity’ printed on a piece of paper

cuts through her voice; a discomforting lullaby:

“Card gase hamashe seath thavun”

(always carry the ID card with you)

Home leaves a permanent imprint…

On scattered notes, stamped on memories

At home, mother would tiptoe after me

At the door, before endless blessings, she always asked –

That question mothers have for their sons –

Protesting Kashmiri Women al (Yawar Nazir, IMOW)

“Card tultha seath?”

(are you carrying your ID card?)

From Delhi now, your question settles on my unrest

Identity – detached from the card – hangs heavy

This is not Kashmir, mother

“Toete gase card seath thavun…”

(Still you must carry the card with you…)

The line dropped on this insistence

I kept redialing, to rest her concerns,

her unfinished questions, unanswered

Hello..helloo… mother

Can you hear me?

I left the card at home, mother

In the back pocket of my worn-out jeans

Interrogating Identity in Kashmir

Find: a fading photograph, scrutinized edges

And no trace of those unrecognized questions

forever inked on my memory

For troops to question my absence

The proof I left behind is not enough

That frisked ID card remains

like a festering wound, pocketed pain

I carry everywhere



Majid Maqbool is a young journalist/writer from Kashmir.  Some of his writings can be found on his blog

Thus Alone, and Always, Have People Resisted Tyranny: Remembering Faiz on his Birth Centenary

Today is the first birth centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: one of South Asia’s most beloved radical Urdu poets. Today is also, just two days after Mubarak’s resignation as a result of the inspiring revolution in Umm al-Duniya, Mother of the World, Egypt; and almost a month after Tunisia’s courageous revolution. How ecstatic would Faiz have been today?!

by Huma Dar

Today is the first birth centenary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz: one of South Asia’s most beloved radical Urdu poets.  Today is also, just two days after Mubarak’s resignation as a result of the inspiring revolution in Umm al-Duniya, Mother of the World, Egypt; and almost a month after Tunisia’s courageous revolution.  How ecstatic would Faiz have been today?!  Faiz, who had lived in Beirut, in exile from Pakistan — when ruled by the US-bolstered military dictator, General Zia-ul Haq.  Faiz, who wrote a beautiful lullaby for a Palestinian child, and a poem for those who were martyred outside their beloved Palestine.  Faiz, whose poem commonly mis-titled, “Ham Dekhenge,” is a battle-song for people fighting for social justice from Sindh, Pakistan to Kashmir to Chhattisgarh, India.

The title of this particular poem of Faiz is in Arabic: “Wa Yabqaa Wajhu Rabbika.”  It is most often brushed aside as it does not fit the simplistic profile of the “avowed atheist” assigned to Faiz.  Being a socialist does not preclude belief in Islam, but this nuance is lost on many who cannot easily imagine Faiz being a Muslim, leave alone leading a prayer in the mosque of his ancestral village, especially given the subtle Islamophobia that pervades élite political and literary discourses, both within and without South Asia.  For some, even more difficult “to reconcile [is] the glowing tribute [that Faiz wrote] to Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” but this has to do with the rigorous demonology of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in Indian historiography, and the hegemonic status of India and Indian academics, even those who vigorously critique nationalisms of all kinds, within South Asian Studies.

Continue reading “Thus Alone, and Always, Have People Resisted Tyranny: Remembering Faiz on his Birth Centenary”

Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media

by Huma Dar

At a groundbreaking seminar, ‘Azadi: The Only Way,’ organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) in New Delhi, India, on October 21st, 2010, the minutes record that Arundhati Roy, the prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, asserted that

[Kashmir] has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc… the Indian state has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people. Continue reading “Manufacturing Consent and Violence: Azadi, Arundhati, Hindutva Terror, and Indian Media”

Something for the media to think about

A statement issued by Arundhati Roy after a mob of the Hindu right turned up outside her house and tried  to ransack her residence on 31st October 2010 in the full glare of TV. (See related posts here and here.)

A mob of about a hundred people arrived at my house at 11 this morning (Sunday October 31st 2010.) They broke through the gate and vandalized property. They shouted slogans against me for my views on Kashmir, and threatened to teach me a lesson. The OB Vans of NDTV, Times Now and News 24 were already in place ostensibly to cover the event live. TV reports say that the mob consisted largely of members of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha (Women’s wing). After they left, the police advised us to let them know if in future we saw any OB vans hanging around the neighborhood because they said that was an indication that a mob was on its way. In June this year, after a false report in the papers by Press Trust of India (PTI) two men on motorcycles tried to stone the windows of my home. They too were accompanied by TV cameramen.

What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media which positions itself at the ‘scene’ in advance have a guarantee that the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime? This question is important, given that some TV channels and newspapers are in the process of brazenly inciting mob anger against me. In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred. So what if a few people have to be sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings? The Government has indicated that it does not intend to go ahead with the charges of sedition against me and the other speakers at a recent seminar on Azadi for Kashmir.

Continue reading “Something for the media to think about”

They can’t buy her silence

by Tariq Ali

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is both loathed and feared by the Indian elite. Loathed because she speaks her mind. Feared because her voice reaches the world outside India and damages the myths perpetrated by New Delhi regardless of which party holds power. She often annoys the official Indian Left because she writes and speaks of events for which they are either responsible or of which they dare not speak. Roy will not allow her life to be subjugated by lies. She never affects a courage or contempt she does not feel. Her campaigns against injustice are undertaken with no view to either fame or profit. Hence the respect awarded her by the poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere. The authorities can’t buy her silence. One of the few voices in India who has spoken loudly against the continuing Indian atrocities in Kashmir, she is now being threatened. If she doesn’t shut up they’ll charge her with sedition, aping their colonial masters of yesteryear. Her response to those who would charge and imprison her is a model of clarity, conviction and refusal to compromise.

Editor’s note: Also see Democracy Now’s interview with Arundhati Roy. This post first appeared on the London Review Blog.

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