An Ode To An Unknown Kashmiri, By Sanjay Jha

Sanjay Jha
National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress party


(An Ode To An Unknown Kashmiri) 

It was a regular August morning

Unremarkable, unhurried

A languorous beginning, towards another monotonous routine

Of daily chores, of muted conversations, of interminable debates 

Going nowhere, but mollifying a disturbed soul

Meandering into the majestic mountains above

Their shadows shimmering in a tranquil lake

Of being frisked by helmeted security guards

Wanting to confirm my patriotic identity 

In a plastic card

Despite decades of breathing my country’s air 

Pure, pristine and ……well, patriotic 

Thankfully, am spared a free ride atop a jeep’s bonnet

Of watching bespectacled charlatans 

Appear miraculously at the appointed hour 

9 pm to be precise 

And utter platitudes, calling me a vile traitor

From their glitzy TV studios

Their hate, escalating amid the rising, frenzied cacophony 

Where the only voice audible said: Anti-national

My daily routine, predictable, boring, yet my own

Was suddenly shattered

The news flashed in a rectangular box

Article 370 was abrogated

Now, within seconds

I was a prisoner in my own home

The Facebook abruptly froze, the last picture of my wrinkled grandma

And her wan smile

Still a nebulous frame in my clogged mind

The television set carried a monochromatic blue image

With white lines hurrying past in frenetic pace

Going nowhere, but reappearing again and again

Symbolic of our hopelessness

As darkness descended into the verdant surroundings

It seemed like an endless night

The only sound audible

Were my father’s incessant palpitations

A deathly impenetrable silence prevailed

Sporadically interspersed by the sound of heavy boots, screeching tyres

A loudspeaker reminding us that it was curfew

Stepping out would be a death wish

Our world was transmogrified

Everything looked different, felt different

Millions of us, were huddled in silence

Our only hope 

That tomorrow

The sun would be up, and all would be fine 

It has been over a hundred days

Of solitude, our minds wandering into bottomless despair

I am told that everyone is celebrating 

That we are caged, cordoned off 

We have a heart that beats, that has experienced excruciating torment

Like yours, in moments of pain, beyond mere pellet gun injuries

And damaged retinas

We are not a piece of real estate, we have an emotional history

Of tranquil days, alas too transitory

Of mysterious deaths, redemption, bullets, blood on the streets

A hostile neighbour, inimical intentions

Have preyed on the sensibilities 

Of the susceptible

But we belong here in this soil of India 

We need to build soulful bridges

Not fluorescent shopping malls 

We have voted before

Because democracy

Is us

But how is arresting our leaders

Freedom? Liberty? 

The apples have begun to rot

The boats float disconsolately 

Submerged in melancholia 

The dusk dissolves, segues into a black night

A new season beckons

Snowflakes shall soon ensconce

On rigid leaves

I once danced when it first arrived

But this time, I shall remain indoors

Fearful, worried, uncertain

Blanketed in my sadness, enveloped 

In my frozen winter.