Shoot those who dare rise against you, those who raise their voices to resist you. Shoot those who speak not in your mother tongue. Shoot those who chant a different prayer than yours. Shoot them, their wives, their mothers, their children. Shoot them all.
If there’s anything that you must hold on to for dear life, it is your memory. It is a reminder of a life lived, albeit etched with suffering and hardships.
I learnt the art of drowning at the delicate age of ten,
when I was neck-deep in the toilet bowl, gasping for breath,
my voice reduced to flailing arms.
Once upon a time, a morning had chanced upon me, as I sat curled on a cold bench wishing life away.
And lent a little glow to the otherwise dim and somber day.
Nothing can be said about history; torn shoes, a comb with broken teeth, a pail with a detached handle, a box of heirloom ornaments, a one-legged rocking chair, charred remains of a picture book, knick-knacks – flotsam and jetsam of ordinary lives pocketed in the ruins which will then be carefully examined, dusted and displayed in museums or auctioned to wealthy men. To whom did they belong? Who will return to claim these?
The spasmodic cough of father’s old scooter bellowing, “Leave me leaning by the Banyan tree, under its shade I shall remain for years hence.”
The evening runs its course. What remains of the plump boys loitering in the playground are slender silhouettes that look as uneven cutouts from a cardboard sheet; contours of everyday objects further tapering off from their earlier shapes to a stream of black.
When the children of Kashmir return home, will they recognize Jhelum’s gurgle as she carries the everlasting woes of the two countries? Or does her name return as a long-forgotten…