The number “four”

Yogesh Mishra


On the way to school

Zuni counts

One barricade, two barricades, three barricades

Green is Pakistan

Saffron is India

And blood is red

It is little Zuni’s new charade

The way she learns counting and recalls a color’s name


I do not know whom to blame

In the last three decades, a lot has changed

I often think…

Should I live by my faith?


Follow the rules of the state?

Nowadays, in my homeland

Everything looks strange


Suddenly my son exclaims!


I look at him, barely a teen

Who thinks of himself as a Mujahideen.

Like Zuni, he is adjusting

Amidst all this rift;

He narrates stories of

Love, fear, terror, faith, and frustration

Compelled to believe in the rhetoric of two nations.

To Choose state over oneself

Questioning his faith

And sacrifices of many generations.

My son contests the occupation

And I live in-between spaces of resistance and negotiation.

He tells me –

A rock out of a Sangbaaz’s hand shows his frustration,

Ruptured rhythms of life are not some aberration.

I see half-widows,

Blinded youth

Kashmiriyat lost

Democracy bleeds

Shattered dreams

Paralyzed routines

Wounded bodies

A constant struggle to survive

And I wonder what this means…

Should I not cry?

Will my Kashmir ever bloom?


Amidst all this rift and chaos

My body in some tormented night

Aches with pain,

Crying many names

On the loom of what is left of my Kashmir

Weaves some dreams.

Dreams of life without curfews

Life without the tags of troubled and normal

Where Identity cards are not must

Where Vistata[ii] does not wait for Vyath Truvah[iii]

Where a father does not read Fatiha for his son

Where a mother does not hold a placard

Waiting for her loved ones

Where disappearances, deaths, and detentions

Don’t force us to live in a siege having many apprehensions

Where Pandits live in vicinity and do not question our intentions.


All such emotions exist


But amidst our precarious existence

We hear Vakhs of Lal Ded[iv]

Giving us hopes, building resilience.


Suddenly, I hear a gunshot

My wife cries – Tufail my son…

I see nothing but color red

And some ‘Alleged perpetrators’[v]

As once my son had said.


Fourth and final- someone shouts

And Zuni learns a new numeral

The number “four”!


[i] Stone Pelter
[ii]  Kashmiri name for river Jhelum, which flows through Srinagar city
[iii] Birthday of river Vitasta, celebrated every year by Kashmiri Pandits.
[iv] Poems (Vakhs) composed by Lalleshwari, a Kashmiri mystic poet popularly known as Lal Ded.  Her verses, written in the Kashmiri language, are considered an integral part of Kashmiri literature; and have a deep impact on Kashmiri society.
[v] This report was prepared by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons documenting the alleged perpetrators of serious human rights violations in Kashmir Valley. Available at


Yogesh Mishra is a postdoctoral fellow at IIT Delhi. His doctoral research focuses on everyday life in Kashmir. Inspired by feminist writings, he is learning to appreciate the power of narratives, stories, (auto)biographies oscillating between poetry and prose as a medium of expression.

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