SHAH KHALID & SANA SHAH
Oh welcome to the paradise of torment! After long, finally, you came here. I fear the dark serpents that keep lingering in the shadows, hear my plaints of grief and loss!
As you sit beside me, do you observe these taciturn, sapphire mountains entwined by the silver becks? Do you feel the hazy gusts, blowing from the Peer Panchal ranges lashing at your face? Do you hear its agonized sighs, aimlessly wafting around in the troubled air? These lofty, Himalayan peaks, that silently witness the turbulence in their folds, are tired of heralding the legends and tales that once marked this happy valley.
They say I have a legendary provenance, so my children do you now contrive for me a hostile end? You will hear of the names and legends from every corner, every bend, if only you all listen! My dense and lush meadows, the azure lakes, that once were mirrors, the numinous springs, the tuneful falls, the deep woods, that echo the verses of the saints who loved them so much, and the sanctified Vitesta, that you call Jehlum.
It was a revered flow of harmony to exorcize evils, though profaned now, and as I look, I can’t help but weep, drowning my own existence, yet being a mother, I designed that haven on “Taqt-i-sulemaan” for you. The“Hariparbat” and “wastueer wann” bear testimony, that I welcomed every faith with open arms, generation after generation, I epitomized composite cultures and rich traditions (some have put that in records too, for which God be praised!), and those kings that made me proud, such spirits they breathed in my burly arms, that for centuries together you had them as celebrated legends; that was the time!
And I remember having taught the sages and pupils from across the borders, long ago. I am shelved and all dreams have halted, and no one is coming to rescue me out of sufferings galore. If I am alive it is because of Sufis and their trust which they have given to me. Here every winter starts with a winter bloodbath. The winter is less harsh than what I witness and faced. Now, the days and nights are dark and painted with stains.
The aftermath of my suffering is heart-rending, I am lying dead and cold, the air smelling injustice and echoing the shuddering shrills of ‘ME’. I am injured, but there are no physical injury marks on my body. Who will now listen to me for my miseries which I am going through?
The saints who practiced penances in my entrenched caves, holding my hands, how they travelled and prayed, and blessed me! May be that is why I am still alive, with my tulips and roses and Chinars and embers. And, did you learn of those tales about the women, they were not just women, they were pious souls, who loved to divulge all their sufferings to me, although they never complained openly.
Whenever I sleep and dream something, I am vehemently stopped and faded into the eternity of grim darkness, which vividly haunts me. Each time, there is an apparent triumph; I am left in a sea of prodigious delusions and deluge of defeated emotions!
I remember the poets of their lands, and their verses in that language of peculiar vowel intonation, that no other language has. But peace is a harbinger for inexplicable turbulence; I always apprehended that. My anxiety made me weep, and bawl each time, and there were times when my tears dried up, I was too tired to cry, my parched body, and the cracked crust,(huh!)You ask me what makes me sob now: I am only a so called “fine tuning” paradise on earth. Now, I have a fear that I should not be removed from that prized position.
But , it is not the anxiety that makes me weep. I feel forlorn and sad now. How did you allow others to drive a wedge between you all, why did you part your ways, are you not ashamed of the segregations? Has the festival of unity declined? Have I lost my healing touch? So, I am not surprised by any sell-outs now. After blazing the shrines afire, you attempt to murder me too, I am not surprised!
My clammy soil smells of blood, now my waterfalls are turbid with ruby clots. Only I know how I had to enshroud slaughtered hearts, fractured bones, and carcasses with marks of slugs, such blood bathed carnage of innocence! I ask you: has anybody tied the threads at the shrines for peace lately? Will you all let the names and legends die? All seasons look plain to me, for you do not welcome transitions now; hence I weep in every season.
I had cradled you in my lap, humming the melody of morality and now, I see you decorating the hearse for me; is this something to see, that with the fading breaths of mother, how the children rejoice! After silently witnessing this profanity for near about a century should I not cry now? Your reflections have rendered my tears murky and I feel helpless.
With my shroud, will you bestow the honor of martyrdom upon me, or is that too much to ask from you? I was called “Satisar” once; the world calls me paradise on earth, I am the land of Sufis and Saints, and with each name I baste a legend, because with each name, I am subjected to a new ordeal since centuries, and I still have the strength to endure, for I lead by example. Every corner in me, has a name stitched to a legend and has a story to narrate; I am that legend no one can disclaim, and all my names are no longer names, they are metaphors. Yes, they are extended metaphors that bespeak the beauty, humility, gratitude, humanity, love, unity and peace garnered by me, and then divisions, trials, torments, strife, pain, loss, endurance, fortitude and tenacity impelled upon me. With every martyr’s touch, I am martyred again, and my arm though frail now, will yet embrace destiny; see how, each time I burn and rise again from my own ashes like the phoenix. Thus, I am the morose but proud land of metaphors. I am Kashmir!!
—Khalid Shah is a Srinagar based freelance Journalist and Sana Shah is pursuing her Masters in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi. Both authors can be reached at the composite email: firstname.lastname@example.org