Two Poems

War and Peace


As a people living under an occupation [in Kashmir] which is camouflaged within a patina of democratic set-up and draconian laws, there is a constant erasure of our bodies, memories, and identities. We are inflicted with active forgetting in order to survive. At the border where the direct gaze of prose is constricted with barbed wires of multiple coercions, poetry spurts forth. Poetry makes one a witness, rather than just an archivist. One’s life-blood, all that is political and emotional; lived, remaining, and forgotten coagulates into a poem.


Note: When these poems were originally published (on SAMAR), Mohammad Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was just hanged without a fair trial in India's Tihar jail.


Abode of the God?


This poem is for those who were tortured to death and those who survived one of the known and notorious interrogation centers in Kashmir called Hari Niwas (Abode of God). Hari Niwas was a royal palace before it was turned into an interrogation center in the late 80’s and 90’s. 


a phantasm above,

I am the bones under this earth 

where you plan to plant 

tulips, daffodils (so dear to my soil)

trying to cover

wide-mouthed pits,

filled with

shoes, limbs, amulets for protection

unblinking eyes,

a first love's charm bracelet 

husbands, sons, 



your rooms are clinging to their walls -

the abode of God, looks less so –

no diviner dare carry a broom

to erase my trace,

in this dank darkness, tinged red

I am not yet done etching tremulous lines on walls

I am not done memorizing faces that are gone,

I am not done counting and keeping time which passed,

there are still dead - dying in certain rooms



Four corners of extreme pain


mother sits by the fire which licks the broken hearth,

burning the bread which needed to be eaten, 

oranges from the funeral guests, rot in the same corner with mother, 

she now turns the bread, that no one wanted to eat,

father is almost hidden

the smoke from the hearth surrounding him for years 

his hookah pipe stuck to into his mouth

he looks like a patient in the ICU, 

his nostrils like little steam engines with no destination,

his feet cold

the daughter sits huddled, 

her upper lip sweaty

wrapping and rewrapping herself in the shawl 

torn from that night, the  scratch marks on her shoulders raw,

the henna heart on her palm faded

beneath plastic flowers, and a photograph, posing with a pen 

the son in the final corner, lies all dressed for burial, soon maybe

once they lift the curfew?



India, Kashmir, Memory, Poetry, Torture