“Each night put Kashmir
in your dreams,” he says,
then touches me,
his hands crusted with snow,
“I have been
cold a long, long time.”
These words of Rizwan, a dying Kashmiri in Aga Shahid’s poem ‘I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight’, reverberate the unending apathy of people in this part of the world. The obvious political and apolitical brutalities apart, a commoner here is destined to slog severely for daily survival. From erratic power supply to dilapidated roads, we have been ‘punished’ by being made to line up and beseech unreasonably. Even for things that should fall in place logically, otherwise.
Seeing people queuing up in chilly days, squabbling and shouting, squandering their precious time and energy, reminds of Jagjit’s rendition…Ab Main Ration Ki Kataaron Main Nazar Aata Hoon…
Every Kashmiri is seen misplaced. We stand there where we should not have been. We have been meshed up in “lines”. Whether it's voters line or frisking line, and many more visible and invisible lines. We continue to line up, line up and line up.
Ironically, all lines have drained us. We have been tapered off, slowly. From resources to remorse, we are left with none. We stand cold, iced up as actors of a great disguised drama.
Wonder, how long we will remain cold and how long Kashmir will slip out of our dreamscape? We are rendered helpless, dependent and vulnerable. Every midnight. Kashmir is fading out.
Was it so always? Our elders with silver hair tell a different tale. Building a picture of Kashmir through their narrative, with all shadows and shades of modesty and respectability, it looks like a nightmare has struck us today. Their Kashmir has never been what it is today. Climate was not this cruel, rivers not so lurking, meadows not this unpleasant and mountains not so merciless, and nothing so suspicious.
What happened then? This transformation won’t be without a cause. Perhaps, we left something at the rear. We lost our roots. We lost our history. We lost our understanding. And we lost discretion. The genius Aga Shahid spelt it out so lucidly in ‘Farewell’—
At a certain point I lost track of you.
You needed me.
You needed to perfect me:
In your absence you polished
me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the
way of my memory.
I am everything you lost.
You can’t forgive me.
Forgiveness is a marathon foundation. It cannot be built upon the broken and distorted pieces of history. The degree of demolition decides the extent of forgiveness. When your identity is muzzled, your assets maligned, and your right to dignity and life denied, the process of re-construction becomes tough and almost unworkable.
History has a very unique way of retribution. It leaves lessons of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and of victories without hope and humanity. There is no grieving but there are scars. There is no love but just lust. There is no talk of heart but only limbs.
Will this creepy and confusing coldness continue? Will history leave us with doomed truths? Will the dogmatic groupthink consume us? We seem drifting distinctly, inexorably farther from our reality. Perchance, there is no stopping this slow ebbing, no way to turn back the clock. For there are forces invisible and intractable. Probably, our coming generations will inherit a damaged legacy. This coldness, this cruelty will not only disfigure us but is fatal enough to exterminate our individuality.
Before that happens, before many of our bellicose and betrayed Rizwan are left with a swan-song, fading out in an abject stupor, let’s thaw out the crust of cold and be what we ought to be.