A Wande Mohneuv from Delhi

Like with other sinister things tucked away in its bureaucratic underbelly, Delhi cannot defeat us or even scare us away with this trith ki tass of a cold. It feels like Hemang Badani sledging Shoaib Akhter while daydreaming about hitting him for a six. Only a top-edge can salvage such daring. In comes the Rawalpindi Express, sweat dripping like torrential rain, hair flying high like flames, arms thrown out wide like the wings of an eagle, chest held out like a revolutionary flag. On another day, a stone thrower comes running from his mark. Last winter, Delhi tried very hard to arrest some balls in the middle. The air had become thick with a fascist smog. Beyond a point, our lungs were unable to process it. It was suffocating. The air required cleaning. We volunteered with reagents to test the presence and purity of revolutionary agents. We found a few, the usual suspects. Many evaporated, like ethanol. Some were decimated by the flippers of a desperate penguin and others mowed down by a speedy juggernaut. For a moment we felt scared. A little hounded. We dispersed. People thought we had gone nou (9) dou (2) gyaara (11), like rats frightened by shour-o-gul of the Times going Republic. We were only warming up. The going-back-to-the-drawing-board phase. Preparing ourselves for a harsh summer. Back home, the summer was the harbinger of our beloved freedom. You are free only in a battle. Summer arrived. We faced the heat of summer in Delhi like we faced the sting of pellets back home. We sat still for hours undergoing surgical procedures. Fine cuts. Rough cuts. Soft cuts. Hard cuts. Deep cuts. Superficial cuts. We maintained equanimity. That’s what we hope we did. Sometimes we negotiated busy streets. Sometimes we navigated them. Sometimes we maintained silence. Sometimes we shot back. Our x-ray reports were not given to us so we don’t know the exact number of scars on our backs, our chests, our thighs. Our heads too. They are being prepared, again, with surgical precision. The results can be a top-edge of sorts. We never know. We may find our eyes declared dead. Every year as the arrival of winter is heralded by the end-of-season sales, Delhi turns obnoxiously boring. Exaggerated advertisements fail to induce much excitement. The mindless honking of cars and the cacophony of machines at construction sites cancel each other out like inverse relations in mathematics and turn this place into a cemetery of silence. The markets attract more crowds and little life. A 300-year-old chinar placed right at the corner of a graveyard has more life in it. For years, it has been providing shade to the grave of an uncle dragged out of his clinic and shot exactly five times in his chest for being the only Jamaet in the village. Its roots meet the grave of a cousin who took a bullet in his stomach which felt like a “needle prick” while whispering something to his friend in a classroom. Everything bright looks dull but we can see the darkness behind their dazzling neon facades. Too much light might have blinded them, but our pellet-laden eyes can see. In Delhi, Coke Studio-Pakistan, music that becomes intense with time, like anchaar made in clay pitchers, provides with the necessary shots of sloganeering. Vekh chhallan pain diyan nah chhaddeen dilve…eAjj Mahiwaal noon main jaana mil ve…e (Look the waves are splashing higher and higher… But don’t lose heart… I must go to meet Mahiwaal this night at any cost). That is the promise to keep, even if it comes at the cost of self-destruction. The beloved has to sail through or be ready to drown. The stone thrower goes out in the streets with the same conviction. He wants freedom or death. At home, Wande cannot postpone its arrival. Vyeth waits. Sometimes the river dries up, waiting for the cold, hard fingers of Wande, which burn everything they touch. Its tryst with our destiny has as strong a covalent bond as ours with freedom. It does not care about climate change, though it is aware of the soot rising from the burning charcoal in Indian military installations across its imagined community. Who says snow is not political? A snowman is always a militant. The unending carpet spread over gaam-o-shehar is a slogan in itself. Sheeni jung is a net practice for stone throwing. In our national consciousness, snow is as sacred as what brings it, Wande. Its arrival is celebrated in winter because it defines those boundaries over which a summer goes by fighting. The flood of images available online don't mean it is snowing for the first time. The snowfall comes at the end of a season of death. The celebration is only an expression of our exclusive right over it as against our other. It does not recognise the colonial or so-called postcolonial cartography. Snowflakes join each other on the surface like people join freedom marches, one after another. Not being home when the heavens send down angelic feathers to cover our bloodstained streets is like missing a Muzaffarabad chalo’ or an Eidgah chalo’ for that matter. You miss the caravan at your own peril. The joy that snow brings is another matter. We don’t lament when it assembles on the branches of apple trees. There is happiness in showering it upon our heads. It is a romance of sorts, to let a few flakes swirl along the skin from the neck. We want the cold to stay on our fingertips so that we keep blowing our breath on them; so that we ask for a narre-josh from our mothers; so that we enjoy the steam rising above our shoulders when we hold a kanger close to our chest like a beloved. The moment we slip down on our haunches, legs go up and are spread wide. There is no shame. There is no pain. There are smiles all around. And if we have both arms inside our pheran, getting up back on our feet is a laugh riot. Those of us condemned to miss all this rely on memories, on images of our cheeks red like apple. We remember the narretette with fondness. They look like patches of molten chocolate spread over our thighs. We talk about the usual places a kanger leaves aametaawe on our clothes. We know no number of hugs, handshakes, chai cups, aloo and kebab paranthas can warm one like kangre-josh does. We know the strolls in parks won’t yield anything. They can’t be compared to walks filled with falls on a day it is snowing. We know the increasing number of Indians learning Koshur do us no good. In fact, they only add to the levels of disgust we have against their country for occupying ours. You took our life, our land. Now language too? We understand the appropriation of our pheran and slogans. True solidarity also means letting the local be local and not subsuming it in “national” or the global. So what do we do? We wait for the 9 to mingle with 11. When the time is right, birds will fly from many directions and sing along in a chorus. Some will perch themselves at a distance on high grounds. Some would want our music to be little soft. A privileged saathi would want the show to end. And then, possibly, the nou (9) dou (2) gyaara (11) moment will repeat. We do not know what will happen. But we are sure of this: the van der waals forces holding Delhi winters tied to Wande will break and Kashmir will flow like Vyeth.

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