Why Do We Write About Kashmir? and Other poems by Syamantakshobhan Basu


Why Do We Write About Kashmir?

I have never been to Kashmir

In my life.

They say when you first see

The way the snow catches the Sun

In Gulmarg,

You draw your breath in so that

It may not escape with some of the

Feeling that you can never now forget and

Impotently you repeat the words to yourself

That an Emperor was famed to have once said

Of this Paradise,

“It is this, it is this, it is this.”

But Paradise has never known

Anything but trouble within its borders.

Kashmir has known nothing

But borders.

Lines that cut across from its shoulder

Right down to its little toe,

Lines that bind it, strap it, cut it into pieces

To be distributed amongst fighting nations

Like so much meat.


Kashmir knows no history but

A history of not-having.

Not having employment, or industry,

No safe childhood, or the certainty

Of a marked grave.

Kashmir has never known what it is like

To drink the water of a free river,

Boundless and liberated

In its entire course.


 Why do we write about Kashmir?

We who have never known what it is like

To step through pools of blood

And past the fearless children with grim faces

Bouncing stones in their pockets?

We who have never known what it is like

To sleep through a curfew

Not knowing if the next sunrise is the last

That we will ever see?

We who have not been blinded by pellets

For walking the streets in our anger,

The price of our slogans

The sight of Paradise lost forever?

We write because there is nothing else

That we can do.

We write because we cannot live

With that blood on our hands.

Blood smeared like giant graffiti on

Shelled-out homes,

And pumping hot on the insides

Of a people who smart daily

With fresh betrayal

And who have long forgotten

The meaning of fear.


No, not in our names,

Or in any other.

We write because if we do not

The unquiet wail of millions of Kashmiris

Will follow us to our comfortable afterlives,

And never let us rest there.

We write about Kashmir,

Because we have been shut out from

Paradise entirely.

Pictures of the daily Hell

To which it has been transformed,

Emerge from the gaps in the walls

Of suddenly-abandoned homes,

And through our television sets,

To keep us awake at night.


We cannot sleep for as long as Kashmir burns;

So with our furious scribbling pens

And frantically typing keyboards,

We turn ourselves into the

Foggy windows of its suffering.



A Bullet for Each of Us


There is a bullet with my name on it

And it is loaded in a gun,

Somewhere in a hate-filled room

With lists of people hung up

On rusting cupboards and peeling walls.

Perhaps that bullet will

One day shatter my skull

And leave a map of my body

Done in blood on the floor.

Then again, the man carrying the gun

May never make it as far as me.

Surrounded by a sea

Of people risen up to twist

The arm that moves to pull the trigger

My nameless gunman may give up in fear

Or raise his arms above his head in surrender.

We need to keep our lives to fight

And build the world of love we crave;

But in search of that, if someday soon,

I am compelled to face this

Bullet with my name on it,

Tell them I will look it in the eye;

I know in my heart I am prepared to die.


3. Mutiny of the Crows


Mutiny happened in the skies,

The day the first murder of crows

Called a meeting to declare to the world

That they would no longer

Eat its shit.

The roads filled up with filth and waste

Cluttered up the gutters

Overflowing with dirty green water,

Till at last the pent-up sludge of

Human civilisation rose up and swallowed

Its monuments whole.

In the belly of the garbage whale

Middle-class gentlemen

Sat around on soggy

Stunk-up armchairs,

And complained about how the sweepers

Never came around anymore

To clean up the place.

(The nerve of those bastards)

The murder of crows flew away

And left the filth behind forever.

They left a trail which showed the way

They went, to others who might follow.

The red promise of their rebellion

Glowed like hope upon the grey air.


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