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.

Door-Nazdiik

Meera Ji

Door O Nazdiik: Meera Ji

Your heart would throb,
my heart would throb,
even far apart!

Beautiful times would come and pass
just like that, far apart!

The stars would shine
just like that, far apart!

Every entity would remain
just like that, far apart!

But this passionate love of you,
this savage song
would remain forever
inside my heart
close to me, very close to me.

Sounds of nothingness

Today again,
sitting beside the old chinar
I search for the voices. The thumping
boots have shot the Bulbul I am told
by a seven year old
whose pheran is still warm.

You must visits us, he insists
seventeen odd people in a shallow dig
marked by a stone, that’s my home.

Uncle Ganie likes blue eyed people
and he knows Abu will find
us all. He promised to come
and see me play after asr prayer;
cricket matches are long at times!

I ask him about the stone.
Not the shale one near the stream
Arshad lives there, not us,
of the size of my fist,
haven’t you seen it before?

A thousand of them, I have.

All in a hurry, silence prevails,
I must go.
The curfew starts at six.
Who knows I would be shot again,
Today.

Whispers of wind

Words fly by me
like a super train on its magnetic track,
like an aircraft piercing the dead sky,
like a Shikara wading through fumigated Dal.

Nausea stirs their meaning, their form,
like fumes of an exothermic reaction,
like monsoon clouds on Himalayas,
like faces of dead in a fake encounter.

Do they fear abandonment
like the wish of every child to grow old,
like Sohni clinging on to molded clay,
like Dhoks of the detained shepherds?

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Bahaar Aayi – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

English Translation by Agha Shahid Ali

It is spring, And the ledger is opened again.
From the abyss where they were frozen,
those days suddenly return, those days
that passed away from your lips, that died
with all our kisses, unaccounted.
The roses return: they are your fragrance;
they are the blood of your lovers.
Sorrow returns. I go through my pain
and the agony of friends still lost in the memory
of moon-silver arms, the caresses of vanished women.
I go through page after page. There are no answers,
and spring has come once again asking
the same questions, reopening account after account.

Of songs, seas and remembrance

Lost songs of monsoon rains
echo with forgotten drumbeats.

I look for you,
in the voids,
between the beats.

The seas rolled themselves up
and now hide in memories,
vanishing like time;
yet seeping into the voids, like time.

How was it before?
Oh, not the drumbeats
but the void and memories
and the songs too.
Write about it on a paper

and roll it, into a jar,
and throw the jar onto the seas.
Let the seas remember
the first songs and the monsoon,
let the waves rumble with drumbeats,
like memories, and fill all the voids.