doubleOn the bus
to my house
somewhere in California
I dream of Kashmir
and the blue skies
that now seem faint
slopping over the mountains,
so unlike Kashmir.

On my phone
besides photographs
I have forwarded songs
that speak of meadows
and sheeps and mothers.
I tinge,
home returns as a song
faint and nondescript
mobile and farthest.

Geographies of longing
bound memories.
I fly between them
a song at a time,
a sky at a time,
somewhere in California.

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.

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.


I couldn’t hold the sunshine in me,
only the warmth of afternoon
which didn’t shy away
even in the haze of winter,
which engulfed the city
like never before.

Or maybe I let my thoughts
paint the canvas of the city
with colors of white.
I left it to overexpose
and the bright sun
wasn’t brightest anymore
and the print turned into
a giant sheet of white-
void of any borders or textures
void of existence,
which couldn’t hold back time

The loss of time
etches memory intricately
much like a miniature painting
depicting sultans and sufis
and paradise.

Loss of time
is yours too,
when I take off
my plastic electronic watch
and let the sounds of Ghazal
decide when the dusk enters the house,
decide if the time for goodbyes is here yet.