In July 1812, German composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who left behind an enduring musical legacy, wrote one of history’s most famous and hotly debated love letters. It was discovered by a friend shortly after his death, in a secret drawer hidden in Beethoven’s wardrobe, and was undated; but thanks to the paper’s watermark that tells us it was written in 1812. It was also, it seems, unsent, and written over the course of two days while Ludwig recuperated from an illness in the Czech city of Teplice. The letter’s unnamed recipient – Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’ – remains a mystery. Following is one of the letters from that series, written on July 7, 1812.
Good morning on 7 July,
Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly. I can only live either altogether with you or not at all. Yes, I have determined to wander about for so long, far away, until I can fly into your arms and call myself quite at home with you, can send my soul enveloped by yours into the realm of spirits — yes, I regret, it must be. You will get over it all the more as you know my faithfulness to you; never another one can own my heart, never — never! O God, why must one go away from what one loves so, and yet my life in W. as it is now is a miserable life. Your love made me the happiest and unhappiest at the same time. At my actual age I should need some continuity, sameness of life — can that exist under our circumstances? Angel, I just hear that the post goes out every day — and must close therefore, so that you get the L. at once. Be calm — love me — today — yesterday.
What longing in tears for you — You — my Life — my All — farewell. Oh, go on loving me — never doubt the faithfullest heart
Of your beloved
Since I’ve been a huge fan of letters and for the love of letter writing, Beethoven’s letter to his immortal beloved has been my favourite love letter so far, out of at least 450 letters that I’ve come across till now. I always related this letter to my immortal beloved, who shall surely not be named throughout this article.
I started this article with this letter because like all the other letters from this series, this too is something that I wanted and still want to say to my beloved, but couldn’t ever because I can’t even dream of writing in beautiful words, like Beethoven. But, I have spent years and years screaming these words to my beloved, who is for sure immortal.
To start with Habba Khatoon:
Be chasai zameen tei
Cze chukh asmaanai
Siras tse chukh sarposh
(I am the earth and you are the sky,
You are the lid
To cover the secret)
It’s a tale of bygone events, a tale that started when I was more of a child than I am today. I belong from a village in Baramulla district of north Kashmir, from a family where we always used to be confined to our hometown, except for the weekends when we would go to our maternal places (places, because we were always told that the home of my three khalas also counted as matamals) out of which 2 were in Baramulla only and one was in Srinagar. No home, no matamaal or visiting place was beyond Srinagar. I never knew that Kashmir has a south pole as well, where apparently there are more places than in the north. It was later in my childhood when I learnt about the south Kashmir places, and it was still later in childhood when I heard of a place which goes by the name PAMPORE.
I had never heard of this name before, having never been there ever except for once in the year 2003 when I was three years old while going to Jammu with my parents for my mother’s medical check-up. And I was so much of a child that time that I don’t know anything about that trip, except that I was wearing an orange-coloured skirt. I didn’t know the places on the way and I didn’t know anything else. So, neither that trip is counted, nor shall I count all the by air trips that took me out of Kashmir. So, basically, practically, technically, virtually, authentically, genuinely and whatever, I had never been to Pampore. But Pampore was always my beloved and I loved my beloved dearly, daily and hourly. Also, I’m not a person who wants to visit every corner of earth, and wants to roam around the old cities of the world or something. I just wish to visit some particular places only, which firstly includes our pilgrimage places, the cities of Makkah and Medina. Although, besides this being a wish, it’s an obligation. Apart from this, I wish that someday I sail in the Atlantic, or in particular I want to visit Bermuda (not the triangle). Also, I’ve always wanted to live in Paris, and whenever I get a chance to go there, I’m never coming back because I want to live there and not only go there for a normal vacation or something.
But above all these wishes, there’s a dream and that has always been Pampore. Until 2018, I had no acquaintances with that town, I knew nobody from there, but it was after 2018 that I made acquaintances with some people from there, and the number of them has never exceeded three. But being acquainted with those people never changed my love for the place and the way I perceived its existence. How often I sat with baba in curiosity to hear the 7pm news and prayed for the name of Pampore to be narrated. And whenever the radio announced the name of my favourite town, my ears felt like some poetry was being recited, and whenever I saw newspapers headlining the name Pampore, I used to keep them safely in my cupboard.
As year after year I received hundreds of questions to specify the reasons that made Pampore my beloved, I mostly reciprocated with lines such as, “The name of the town feels like a door to heaven, it feels like the most soothing melody sung by mountains to my immature heart, it sounds like prayer blooming all my wishes to fruit”, and every time my answers were considered as insane and gossiped as something cooking in my heart with that place. It was all so odd but the excitement over the town made me utter all my secrets.
People ask me this and by people I mean my family and whoever knows about my immortal beloved. They ask me why I love such an ordinary place and what makes me so conscious about its existence and makes me appreciate its worth more than my own worth. But I am always unable to answer anyone; I’ve never even been able to answer it to myself, actually. I have never been able to understand my longing for that place but it had been a dream, a dream better than and much more needed than a million beautiful realities. And with every passing year as my height took to the skies, my shades changed, people came and people left, I engraved some names on my heart and forgot some as if I had never encountered them, but one thing remained constant: the longing for Pampore and the craving to visit a place that was stitched with my sleep, heart and head, words and poems and letters.
My breaths took hefty leaps day by day and I can still recall all my years of longing, how I tried pronouncing the name Pampore in front of the mirror, and often my palms like some henna being painted on them with Pampore being the name of my beloved, and how often longings of the town appeared like a mirage before my eyes, as if I had become drunk with its aroma, reading the signboards of its directions and maps, singing cold rhymes while hammering at the rabab, “Sobia, Pampore befalls close; just stretch your hands.”
Skipping a million more details about my love and longing for this place and skipping all my attempts to reach out to the town and all my tears that I’ve shed in its longing, it was on November 28, 2021, when my longing came to an end, or just that my longing for it paused for some hours, although I still want to be there and I still want a million more things, and I know I’ll always want more and more of Pampore. So, I won’t explain my journey, because first I am really bad at describing journeys, and second I can’t pour it out here even if I was a great writer who could describe every existing thing in a beautiful, poetic manner. I can scream louder and louder, I can cry my eyes out, I can die laughing, I can do more but I can’t put my emotions into words. The emotions are immeasurable, and infinite the number of miles between wherever in the world I am and Pampore.
For me, this day was one of the most awaited days of my life. Had I been a normal person visiting this town, I would have said that it’s an ordinary town just as Sopore is, which is my hometown. But as soon as we entered the premises of Pampore, I wasn’t a normal person and I lost all my normalcy (if I had any). So, I wanted to stop every such voice that called this town ordinary. How could they not feel what I was feeling, and how could they call it ordinary when it was not. I still can’t believe that for four hours, I inhaled the air of my dream place and I swear as soon as we were leaving, I kept breathing heavily, inhaling more and exhaling more, so that my exhaled air remained there to get mixed up with the scented, aromatic, and pilgrim air of Pampore. It was childish, funny and it was so awkward for others that everyone around was noticing my actions, my screams, my tears and the way I was getting out of the car every five minutes to click pictures with the most ordinary things of the town. I talked to so many people there, asking them where I could find a good place to stay for sometime and no one had an answer for that. Instead, everyone asked me why I’ve come to Pampore to stay and everyone suggested me spots to spend time at, but they all were out of Pampore. I wanted to pour out my emotions to them, and make them understand why I wanted to stay here but I couldn’t. I was helpless, I was crying and laughing and all the time I was talking to my beloved insanely.
I was being insane and I know that every time I visit Pampore again, I’ll have the same insanity over and again. I’ll apply henna on my hands every time I visit Pampore just like I did today. I sat in the middle of some saffron fields and wrote one of Habba Khatoon’s couplets on my hand with henna; “chaav myaen daanai posh”. And hereafter it’s like a ritual to me: I can’t visit my beloved without painting my hands with henna; it would be like a sin for me. I know with every sentence, my insanity, madness and abnormality is clearly understood, and I admit that I’ve turned insane and mad and I’m totally not normal, but I love this name and this place. I love Pampore truly, deeply and madly.
While I’m writing this article, I want to add that the last meal in my stomach right now is from Pampore, which isn’t Kehwa because I don’t like saffron and I’m kind of allergic to it. I don’t want to eat anything else now because I want my last meal to be the one that I had in Pampore. But I know it’s all impossible and illogical, but I’m glad about everything right now, and I don’t want to regret anything right now. I wanted to get along something from there, something that could remain with me forever and remind me of Pampore, something that would be a souvenir. And after spending too much time thinking what to take and not being able to decide anything, I returned with a pocket full of soil, which I took from a saffron field. That shall remain my souvenir always, at least until I visit Pampore again.
After spending almost 4 hours, which passed too quickly, we left and with every metre rushing out from town, goosebumps and achings made me think, Sobia, you won’t be drinking the aroma of the town again, and it felt like someone who has my heart left behind and after this transmission of longing for place, I kept humming the alphabets of the town till we reached back home. And as soon as I reached home, the longing that was gone for the time I was in Pampore, came back to me and this longing shall always be within me, always and forever.
Laale gati manz tsong zaajaanai baale roodus
Che chaham shama, bu chhas parvaanai chaav myaen daanai posh
(Lost in her world of dreams, Laila
Lit her lamp in the dark!
I am the moth and you my lamp!
Enjoy my pomegranate blossoms)
~ Habba Khatoon (Pampore)
P.S. I would like to thank and dedicate this article to the people who took me to Pampore, although I would anyway visit the place someday, but between today and that someday, there would be millions of failed attempts and maybe one of those failed attempts could be the attempt to survive. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to Dr Nasir Nabi and Henna Kirmani for taking the pains of tolerating my million emotions throughout the journey.
With every humanly emotion that’s present within me,
—(The writer is looking for some acquaintances in Pampore and can be reached at [email protected])