Srabanee, this is Srinagar.

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A December Nineteen 50 painting by an unknown Kashmiri artist who was associated with Kashmir Progressive Artists’ Association.

by Basant Rath

Srabanee, this is Srinagar.

Here we’ve got Friday, snow and streets.

Nineteen is only a number.

Chinars are tall here and stones are small.

 

Srabanee, hatred is not all

we’re up to on the streets here.

Not every neighbour is an informer.

Not every day ends in wringing of a few necks.

Not every Ramadan comes without rumours

of our missing sons and brothers .

 

We’ve learnt from our experience –

the need to forget and the gift of acceptance.

You’ll hear how we say

Sheen Mubarak” to our neighbours

when we get the first snowfall of the season

and how we celebrate our weddings

among the ruins and the checkpoints.

 

Srabanee, we’ve got Friday prayers here.

Srabanee, we play tennis ball cricket on our streets.

And on a protest day, we throw stones at cops

and get a few bullets on our legs and arms.

We don’t die. We don’t kill, Srabanee.

 

Here it is neither moon nor mountains.

Curses don’t reach. Prayers freeze.

Oh Srabanee, my first love, my last death,

stay here, take a round.

 

The chinars are much elder to you.

They will humour you with their stories

of forty seven, eighty nine and ninety four.

Nineteen will remain silent. It is just a number.

 

The chinars will tell you the stories

of mothers whose foreheads carry prayer marks

as heavy as the weight of a missing son.

Their sons who loved Kamachi shoes

didn’t return from schools.

 

Where are these sons now, you ask?

They are on the placards their mothers hold

before the TV cameras. Each of them.

One face holding another.

When did these sons go missing, you ask?

Srabanee, in Nineties. Nineteen is silent.

Like a grave without a headstone.

(A J&K cadre IPS officer, Basant Rath is a poet.We have lifted this poem from his facebook)

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