Public parks are like chronicles of things from which people derive their ancestry. They are a cradle to our melancholic existence.
The more I walked along the Jhelum bund, the more absorbed I felt in the times past. We were alone then. Two young people in love.
I imagined myself as a kindergarten child counting seconds of her recovery over her agony from reading a passage from The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk. We followed the articulation of the passages like two young travellers following a boulevard in the night that leads them nowhere. Kemal, the narrator, who is in love with Fusun, a beautiful shop girl, and is going to be married to the aristocratic Sibel, is in conversation with his father when his father narrates to him the story of his unrequited love. Just when we were about to reach the end of the passage, we both sighed, muttering on a hurtful note, "How terrifying life can be, how empty it all is!" until we found the same expression written at the end of the passage. We felt both surprised and hurtful until she muttered in a beautifully low voice that touched the corridors of my heart, "The language of love and sorrow, my dear, is the same to all the humankind."
On our days in general, we would cross the footbridge near the historic SP Museum, enter our world of melancholy and feel overjoyed while walking under the shades of beautiful Chinars. It's peculiarly beautiful how the two places look entirely different, separated only by a bridge. If one looks at the two places keenly, the one on the side of the museum is open or common, unbearable in summers and winters both, busied by a nonstop traffic and sorrowfully made ugly by the perils of unpleasant occupation.
The other side of the world is indescribable in the language of a poet. There is peace, wonder, love, enthusiasm, and above all melancholy. The shades of the Chinars make way to Peerzoo, the place Agha Shahid Ali had walked in his youth. I thought at times how he would have walked the road, lost in his own aura, smoking some different kind of a cigarette brand while sitting on a secret bund. Perhaps he had written his lament on Rizwan on the same bund; who knows! But it is certain that his fragrance still holds the place in a promise of hope.
On any dull day in my life, I would lay my hand on Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. While living in my dormitory I would enquire from literary zealots if they had read the book but every time I did the same it turned out to be a wasteful exercise. I so much wanted someone to discuss with me Toru Watanabe's love for Naoko, the two characters in the novel. In this wasteful exercise, I would imagine myself as Toru and envy him so much that I took pleasure in naming places in Srinagar after those in the novel.
Certain places are unique without knowing why. I would call my woman during any time in the day, take her around the bund road and sit near the Lala Sheikh restaurant till she covered her face and made herself into a boy and enter the small café to drag hard on cigarettes between sips of tea. This always applied to any journey of Naoko and Toru. A few footsteps away, one could get the best coffee in the world and sip the same on ridges made above the bund while songs of Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan kept playing inside small cafes. This always made us feel like sitting on some peak on a large Japanese building as two young people. Alone. Far away from the world.
Every story has an end, but dear reader, my story has no end. This is no memoir, but a fiction. OK. We parted. But this won't do. Let me finish it my way:
I visit the Jhelum bund sporadically, I visit the Jhelum park too. I sit across the bridge near Raj Bagh. The bridge too is a river now. Days are dull facts. Night is a countdown timer. Sky above is a blanket of black clouds. My life is taking path of all the beautiful novels. But I see the fragrance of hope while walking along the bund. I see Agha Shahid Ali talking to me, repeating the Persian phrase, "This too shall pass." I imagine him repeating in his own aura, "This too shall pass."
(Aarif Muzafar Rather is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, reportage and prose poetry, currently pursuing his Bachelors' in Law from the Central University of Kashmir.)