Memory is the most important tool which oppressed people have. The oppressors want us to have amnesia. The only potent weapon we have as people is memory. “Our memory will always help us to sustain the struggle against injustice,” said Khalid Parvez in an interview with David Barsmain. Indeed, between the neat beds of crimson bloom, her fragrance is like a time machine, granting me a fleeting visit to the land that clings on to nothing, but memories. To my mother’s land. To memory.
Aayat: “Appi it’s not working, why can’t click a photo?”
Mir: “Give it to me, give it to me, I know how to do it…It’s on video mode, now try it like this.”
As god sits on a Shikara painting the paradise, he paints it deep blue and green. A lake so magnificent that it reflects the willing canvas of the mountain and sky. And when he strikes the brush he weaves strings of harmony, and when he strikes the brush he writes poetic songs of the light that is played upon the wind dancing ruffles of willows and trees, and when he strikes the brush he breaks dawn in crimson and wine red, giving it a
watercolour effect. But if the kahwa in his hands slips into a tumultuous storm that wipes the sailcloth grey, was it man who did it or was it divine justice that did not come into play?
Sitting in the university garden, in the serenity of the whistling waters of Dal, our hearts tuned to the flow striking the fixated stones; it was then that I had believed so much in beauty, it was then that I had believed so much in its imposing power that transforms any human being. Every second spent in Kashmir is etched to me like a memory, that if ever revisited, redefines each moment that has ever lived in me, in my mind’s eye.
We were happy. Mountains in summer, lawasa and noon chai, spinach curry dinner on red carpets. The intoxicating smell of afternoon rain with nadru (lotus root fritters) in newspaper wraps. All year round we waited for summer, because summer meant holidays and holidays were a month-long dip into the relieving
waters of a home far away, a fernweh. And because holidays were the hugs and kisses of khala as she spoiled and stuffed us until we turned into a burrito. And because holidays were not only days spent playing
in doll houses or snow-laden balconies, but by then holidays were like a dream that kept on returning to kiss greater life into our souls.
Walking bare feet on wet grass in Shalimar does not equate to the baghs in Delhi. How can nostalgia be so weak that it can’t cling to the last pieces of what is lost? It is because so much is lost. Nothing is the same.
Jhelum boils red in the loss of mothers, endless suffering, endless pain, the endless murder of life, widows, orphans, rape, politics, law and order. Oh, the border, the border! Shelling and pelting, take the youth to detention centers so that the ‘high sir’ can do the belting, the shooting electrocuting.
Nothing is the same. Life is cheap. The winter wind comes with its hollow screams, its quiet cries. But the whispers linger on, the blood dries out, covered under the snow. Don’t let yourself show. Out in the dark, at night. A son born here is a son died. Nothing is the same. Army bunkers and barbed wires surround the roads, mental agony surrounds the people and it is grief that they breathe in. I live in Delhi now, Lucknow feels unlike home. Mir left college after his father died of a heart attack. He sits at the shop now with his elder brother. That is how they earn a living. I went back there after 7 years. Sitting on the stairs at Hazrat-Bal, I see a gamut of pigeons flying. The people often feed them. Just like they feed the hope inside. The walls are scribbled with Azaadi, of what they want, but who are they? Are they some of them or all of them, and if they are who they are, who gives them the liberty to want what they want? Who gives them thought? They are nobodies. No blood and bone. No skin and soul. They are dust. They are ashes. They are long-lost dreams. They are the wind-blown chinar leaf you step on while you walk in and out of paradise(hell) in peace.
“Jis khaak ke zamir mein ho aatish-echinar
Mumkin nahien ke sard ho wok hake arajmand
Wo arajmand ab hogaya hai sard o iqbal
Ab ro raha wadi-e-kashmir phir se ek baar.”