I would carry this song across the barricaded city

Lal Ded would tear, a city naked
as her. She isn’t us anymore.
No one can over-hear her songs
or see her verses. Long pauses
have pickets encircling them.
Guns arrest all her words,
in squares, where lovers would meet.
Checkpoints break her verses abruptly.
Her hands, smelled of dried ink and paper,
textured with drowning mist of tear gas shells.

In times like these
treading through poems is fatal.

But, poets would tell you, this city too
is a poem
naked more than ever.

The monsoon clouds never cross into Kashmir




In the plains,
we board a flight
that rises above them.

It’s departure is home coming.
It’s arrival – a strange city.

But in a curfewed city
how would you find yourself

and your home,
the one you left behind
when it was still summer

and the birds hadn’t flocked
away from the half-inched Himalayas.

Now, mist covers what’s theirs;
We descent, breaking the city noise
silence follow us, like a scream,
into the valley.

We look for names
that were once ours.
No one carries a placard, anymore –
the city has run out of its alphabets.

We overhear
Aakashvani announcement –
“The curfew shall be extended”

“Hamiasto, Hamiasto, Hamiast!”
was that you, Shahjahan?


When it’s autumn’s turn
to borrow a bloody summer’s color,
don’t go out looking for me

in meadows mined with memories
blooming with wild flowers
that never went away

like the million stars
under which we met
the first spring years ago.


When the sky seeks an abode,
spare the attic for it.
Don’t go out looking for me

leaving the house to grieve
the loss of sky
that couldn’t bear the agony

of autumn’s demise.
Seasons like colors
faint in memories now.

Let the ultramarine water
be our witness –
Kashyap, the tormentor

seeks you in our death
to undo the knots
of your belligerence.


Dreams on window panes
with moonlit shadows
from yesterday ceased
to move.

I wish, the sun
would hang low
and pierce the darkness
that settled with the snow.

You find it meaningful –
to trace the stars
with bitten finger nails
and shift the sky

with a wish;
turn the day into
yesterday, and then
fly away

with all clocks, all watches
all the time bundled
into a knot, and
tied to memories

With a red thread;
the other end, my garment
unfurls like yesterday –
bearing the naked self,

Continue reading



News arrives in flashes
over the radio.
I try fixing the antenna
before the announcement –

Occupied, noise
death a, noise

I weave a story.
Fill the noises with
cut outs from dailies –
all of them.

It takes years.
And the news isn’t
still mine.
Words envy me
and, I despise them.

Perhaps, we will
look in the eye again,
when your truth
become mine.

Songs of the Divided People

As one travels westwards in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, towards Pir Panjals from Jammu or towards Uri from Srinagar, the demography and geography alters. These regions are mountainous and are inhabited by Gujjars and Paharis who have a distinct language and culture. The Line of control that passes through these regions has divided the communities.

The famous Pakistani folk singer Reshma remarked in one of her concerts “Even if you don’t give us visa, our voices will reach you without one.” Voice from across the LoC have traveled over the decades via the medium of radio. The All India Radio station at Poonch is equally popular across the LoC. Places a little higher up in the mountains in Poonch receive as many as twelve Pakistani FM stations and only a couple of Indian FM stations.

The process of cultural exchange has been strengthened by opening of Uri Muzaffarad and Poonch – Rawalakote bus services. Artists now have the opportunity to travel across LoC.

Tariq and Musarrat form a popular singing duo. They are based in Srinagar. They travelled across the LoC and performed at Pathri in Leepa Valley. The venue of the performance is outdoors and looks like a Dhok, higher altitude grazing ground where the nomadic communities travel to during summer. The opening verse captures to some extent the state of diplomacy between two nations

Har Vaile Inkaar, Eh Gallan Changiyaan Te Nahi
Bachpan De Asi Yaar, Eh Gallan Changiyaan Te Nahi

Disagreements all the time, this isn’t right
Aren’t we friends since childhood? This isn’t right



The Poonch-Rawalakote bus service started in 2006. Noor Muhammad Noor expresses his desire to visit Rawalakote and meet relative and friends across the LoC. His poem is a song of celebration.


Noor Rab Ne Fazal Kamaiyo, Hun Milan Go Velo Aayo
Duan Paase Aayi Bahaar, Khushi Manaaun Go

By the grace of almighty, the time of meeting is here
On both sides spring has returned, I will celebrate.


When poet Rana Fazal traveled across the LoC and visited his village, Ayaz Ahmed Saif, a popular folk singer and a poet himself sang a few verses to welcome him. Ayaz’s evocative poetry and his rustic voice brings many to tears. The idea of wisaal, of being united and the fear of immediate departure mark the line between what’s celebrated and what’s inevitable.


Who’s the beautiful entering the courtyard,
Who’s comforting the aching heart.

Ailing for Pir Panjal, seeking his village
a resident of Ghund Parodi, who’s here to stay for a few days.

Who has borne the brunt of separation and pain of parting
listening to our pain, who’s here to tell his tale.

Seasons have exchanged colors, and doors of mercy have re-opened;
severed from its tree, the bird of hope is here to reacquaint.


Songs and poetry have served to keep the old connections intact. Names of places which otherwise would have been forgotten are part of collective memory and imagination. Galli Nurpur or Girjan Dhok gain mythical status for those who cannot visit them. The binaries of nationalistic identities which aren’t strong in these hinterlands are further challenged by songs and music.