Short vignettes of life in occupation

memory
Photo by Faisal Khan

My instep arch not only keeps the ache, 

It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
 
- After Apple Picking by Robert Frost 

 

The state is at war with the memory of people. It distorts it or it does not want people to remember. There is a continuous assault on our memory; more things happen and pile up on the things that happened; memory also overlaps. 

This short piece is an attempt to reclaim physical memory in the body; both in what I remember and what my body remembers in relation with the landscape. Oftentimes, I realize that "reality" loses ground and one is left in dilemma as to what is real and unreal. The fiction and non-fiction blend. This piece is an attempt to further blur the distinction and give voice to the mundane and ordinary, the usual conversations, and the memory of the people. 

***

A rusty black iron cage with two rods slightly broken. Inside it is a white pigeon peeping his head between the broken rods, struggling to flee to freedom. The background is impenetrably dark. (A painting)

That is how my face looks.

I am an abode of spiders. They have weaved their webs all over me. And have concealed my existence behind their webs. Their webs are strewn with remnants of dead insects and dust. The spiders, weird creatures, scratch me with their long thin legs. And penetrate their thin legs into my crevices. And in the crevices of my body are innumerable centipedes, dark grey, and their legs are wavering. They are not noisy but make noise of another kind; wavering noise. Centipedes are scrawny creatures. But dogs are noisy creatures and bark throughout night. They are my scourge and constant threat to my saggy structure. My mouth has been closed a long time ago. It is stitched with barbed wires and any trespassing is met with punishment. Nothing visits me except for the choleric dogs, and I cherish their visit; at least they make me feel that I am still alive.

I am a street somewhere in Kashmir.

I was born I don’t know when. Sometimes I think I was never born but was always here. I have no history but I have memory. The memory of the times I have known.

Of sages and their disciples; of the discussions of wise men; of the prosperous merchants and their mercantile, of Samarkand, of Bukhara, of silk route; of mystics and their wise gibberish; of the marching of the victorious; of the sullen faces of the vanquished; of the men carrying huge stones to make palaces and gardens; of summer visits of kings; of looters and their wild habits; of the screams of women and children; of condemned men taken to be hanged by the bridges; of the hangmen; of turbaned soldiers and their bayonets and long swords; of musical azans and their banishment; of the masjids turned into stables; of selling of shawls along with men, of bloodied embroidery of shawls, of Albi Baba; of begaar; of the sweat of men; of the pangs of hunger; of the wine and dances; of kings and court girls and their love making; of gumboots and their menacing sounds; of the protests and processions; of Naya Kashmir Manifesto; of Maqbool Bhat, of Maqbool Elahi, of Firdous Kirmani, of Shabir Siddiqui, of Papa 2, of the lice crawling on mutilated bodies, of the incessant hearing of Behenchod, Madarchod; of Kunan and Pushpora, of Akhtar Mohiuddin, of Agha Shahid Ali, of Prem Nath Bazaz, of Dina Nath Nadim, of Jaghmohan, of Kukka Parrey, of gun shots, of blood, of hopeful slogans, of hopelessness, of love, of life, of death: of Burhan, of a struggle, of 2008, of 2010, of 2016 , of Inshah, of Zahid Farooq, of a long struggle. (Memory of a street)

When my vision improved, there was no one; the boys were gone. The only evidence of them was the trails of blood on the ground. And one more thing, the painting they had painted had changed its color. Its impenetrably dark background had turned red (A Memory of a Memory)

Its impenetrably dark background had turned red (A painting)

That is how my face looks. 

***

Bilal Mir, a Padar Sehh

“Had his legs not got caught in the wires, he would have killed them all. Su oas Padar Sehh, he was a lion.”

Bilal Mir was our first hero; the first militant who let us touch his gun. Bilal Mir was killed in his village, near his home, in his father’s apple orchard. He was caught in the wire fencing and he was shot there.

His mother, Rahmat, before burying his son, tore the fence apart and buried it near his son’s grave. It is said that when Rahmat died, some years ago, her last words were, “Raawnuk doad chu afsoos asaan”

***

“Indian occupation is like a building of ice. And the blood of martyrs has fire in it. The fire will consume the ice and bring down the building,” (Memory of a conversation, in 2016, with a mother who lost two sons in 1992).

And then we kept walking, under the starry cold night. An occasional car honked and raised dust, spattering our faces with it.

I asked him, looking at the bunker by the roadside, “This bunker overwhelms me. It is ugly. Do you think we will ever get rid of them?”

He looked at me, sighed, and then with a smile said, “Pessimism of Intellect and Optimism of will, man. Freedom is inevitable,” (Memory of a conversation with a friend, one night, in Srinagar)

“If you don’t shut up and eat quietly, I will call Kukka Parrey and ask him to take you in a sack and throw you somewhere” (A grandmother to a seven year old child on not eating).

“Our toilet was in the courtyard. In the winter nights, I used to get the urge to pee frequently. But I never dared to venture out to pee. I would hold my little penis with my left hand, press it harder so as I don’t pee, and sleep. Sometime in the middle of night, I would just feel hot liquid slouching down my thighs; it was such a relief. I would wet my bed till I was in class 10. My mother nicknamed me mutradd.” (From a conversation with a childhood friend)

“When I see the barbed wire and the bunker around, I feel choked. My nostrils jam, and my mouth dries up. I run to home or to a bathroom and start masturbating. I survive because of masturbation or else I would have been in a mental asylum.” (From a conversation with a youth)

A dot of blood (a painting in a room)

Mintary-Miltan, the two antagonists, theirs is the oldest fight. It is a fight between evil and good. Between immoral and moral, between injustice and justice, between Namrood and Ibrahim, between Pharaoh and Musa, between Yazid and Hussain, it is the oldest and the first fight; this is the fight between two world views; slavery and freedom” (From a conversation with an old man, on a roadside tea stall.)

“Go India, Go Back” (voice of a wall outside my home)

These walls of the street, oh my dear, how weak they have turned, how weak! They were witness to the ruin of the city, they watched when the soldiers arrived, with bayonets and guns reddened its streets, they heard the endless madness, the thuds of the boots, and the whispers of the people. They are privy to the screams that have become the part of the streets everywhere, they possess the secrets of the endless dark nights and the things that were done, they remember their decay, and they mourn the dreamers whose dreams were truncated prematurely. Dear, the walls of the streets, those walls where, I, declaring my eternal fidelity to you, had written like many others, A+S, are blank now; mutilated, pale and weak. This wall at which I am looking, resurrects again and again, in shimmering golden luster, the voice, the laughter, the giggles of you. O dear, your laughter; I could give my life to hear it again.

Shaziya, I am passing through the road now. The snow is fluttering, cold and inhuman unlike you. There are soldiers around, pissing on the walls, pissing on our A+S, oh how angry I am. They have occupied everything. They have wedged the Chinar tree, like Jesus, and the homes of crows are destroyed. Your letters will be there and after I finish this letter I will post it there, for you. (A man in snow)

To be continued...



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