A Mother’s Elegy

Can a mother abandon herself and compensate the loss of her son by singing, writing elegies. There is one from restive Maisuma, who has been weaving verses since 2010 when her only son fell to the bullets, reports Marila Latif



In her frail voice, she keeps humming odes to her son all days and all nights. Almost six years have passed, but the mother’s woe refuses to wane. Turbulence dawned six years ago when her son, her only son fell to the bullets. And since then, the 60-year-old mother has been compensating her loss by singing, writing elegies.

For Shahzada Rafiq, even time has proved treacherous, as it couldn’t help her to move on in life and assuage her sorrow.

The sorrow befell in simmering summer of 2010, when forces were piling up bodies of ‘young and restless’ across Kashmir. Amid bloodbath, Shahzada’s 28-year-old son, Yasir Rafiq, took a day off from restive curfews and came out to play carom on a roadside with his friends in restive Maisuma.

For the day, the area known for its signature anti-establishment dissent appeared calm. But the uneasy calm shattered shortly when youth and forces got engaged in a fierce clash. To contain the dissent, forces opened fire. One bullet hit Yasir, injuring him critically. A few days later, Yasir, the young businessman, succumbed.

In her Maisuma home, Shahzada is repeatedly persisting that her son wasn’t part of protest that day, but “an innocent who was brutally killed without any reason”.

The day her son succumbed, she fainted only to regain her senses completely, three months later. But caught between her inconsolable motherhood and worldly affairs, she soon found salvation in poetry.

“I never thought that I would be able to write for my martyr son,” says Shahzada, sobbingly. “But then I thought it is a best possible way to keep him alive, forever.”

She weaves her verses in chaste Kashmiri. Her poetry talks about a mother’s deep sense of loss and longing for her son. Shahzada, however, never craves for justice through her verses because, she says, every Kashmiri knows the end result.

Though her verses are too personal to her, but her elegies appear representation of many mothers who kept singing elegies in memory of their sons.

“Writing verses for expressing grief and sorrow is the best way to budge away depression,” says Hamidullah Shah, a noted psychologist. “Shahzada’s poetry is her panacea – as it helps her to reduce suicidal tendencies and other mental agonies.”

In some of her verses, she invokes neighbours for an impossible reunion with her son: Neighbours are searching for you, oh my dear; they are stabbing from their windows for you, oh my dear…

Shahzada is being looked after by her only daughter, Saima Rafiq. While simplifying the complex of her mother’s condition, Saima says her brother’s death not only doomed her family, but badly freaked her mother.

“I began noticing subtle changes in my mother’s behaviour soon after my brother’s death. I thought, maybe, things will be fine after some time. But I was wrong. Till today, my mother wails and wakes up during nights, complaining a strange pain in her heart. She then leaves her bed and begins singing, writing elegies while crying her heart out.”

Amid Shahzada’s relentless woe, Saima doesn’t remember the last time when her mother cooked food. “All the time,” Saima says, “Mama locks herself in home. Those killers didn’t only kill my brother, they killed my mother, too.”

Meanwhile, the mother sings: Loali chanai sham goumai, yaar goumai gindnai (Your reminiscence conferred nightfall on me, my beloved went to play…)


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