I liked your face, bronzed by time and burden
I liked the gleam in your eyes—of truth, of fight.
When you asked me: How does a free Kashmir look to you?
I was only looking at your sculptured hands
I wanted to hold your hand and tell you
about all my dreams–wordless, clockless.
When I saw your worn out chapals and your carefree feet,
as if still dangling in the ancient waters reflecting a promise
I wanted to ask, what do they mean to you—earth and freedom.
Your eyes when filled mine,
I saw the dream in my eyes reflected in yours
We carry burdens of our own
I don’t have a country
You don’t belong in yours
Your hands reminded me of a kite maker I dreamt about
I liked the way you carelessly picked your words
and the smile that escaped you
when I laughed in hysteria, in madness.
When you hurriedly wrote Mustafa on your notebook and looked at me puzzled,
And then as if recalling some childhood tales, your mind summoned verses,
perhaps of the muezzin who would pass you patting your head,
your face resurrected from a dead dream.
When you muttered secular, your lips pursed,
I heard sounds, of crumbling illusions.
I wanted to know what was your face like when you were a child, playing in the forests
that no longer belong to you and your people!
I don’t harbor hope,
I wanted to ask, do you?
When I grew frantic talking about dead and disappeared,
you reassured the promise a dream is impregnated with!
Of my country
I only thought about you,
Your hands, the lines on it, the map, the country on your hands!
Your long strides reminded me, both of us, have a long journey to undertake
The caravans have just begun and it is a long dark night before we reach our country!
[The writer is a New Delhi-based Kashmir scholar. Her poem: ‘Of Immortal Flowers’ was published recently in Cerebrations.]