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.


On endings

I have a bad habit of not completing the writings. A few of the incomplete poems and short stories in the draft folder must have aged to more than a few years now. I let them pass on to tomorrow and then the day after. Of course these breaks in writing lead to discontinuity of thoughts and expression. The final text is not coherent enough. But at the same time, I believe the best writing comes out in the moments when you are inspired enough.

Text editor tells me that I typed in the following poem in November. It was done in halves. The second half was written four days after the first. I can see my own thoughts drifting between the two. I would like to believe that I will complete it someday, but not aaj, certainly not abhi.

Jad kade tum mud ge aaven gaa, vatnaan dar
qisso aan ge, kis na sunaaven ga, vatnaan dar

Gham ga rahi, sukh ka saathi, kit tor challya?
Thari hairani, kis kis na ruvave gi, vatnaan dar

Koyal aaj vi kooke, uss mannu var
Yaad ne jisna kappan na ditto, vatnaan dar

Challan go thando paani, diin go rang theekro
Yadaan gi thandi chaan, aa bulave, vatnaan dar

Passe Passe lang chalyo, saaro rang hoyo maelo
Iss ujad kotha na, kon leepa, vatnaan dar

Baazraan mein phirya rang sona, te cheez keemti
Yaadan ga charkha na kon phera, vatnaan dar

Ajad aso lang gaayo parli kashmir, naal maes do
dhokhan maan charen gaadi sau, aa dekh nazaro, vatnaan dar

Haath maan soti, maes dhakti, daadi phir puche
“khatto dudh hur kitno joodun, dan ek vaari aa, vatnaan dar”

Ghaa go poolo, suk ge bisar gaayo, aas aaron
“Aa gal lag, sukh gi ghaadi naal rachaa, vatnaan dar”

Kal gi gal jaedi bada andhar baes ki thi humne
Kidde vi nah gaami aaj tak, taaza hain, vatnaan dar
Bado andar te Tda chodoyo tho, var ve gaal saari
Sawaan ki rut naal baaren aaj vi, vatnaan dar

Takhti var jo likhyo tho main naa apno, adha ghadya lafzan maan
Uss na hun nahi padh sakto hoon, var syaahi mudh bulave, vatnaan dar

A simmering mixture of memories and thoughts with a fair bit of reflection. That's home.

A simmering mixture of memories and thoughts with a fair bit of reflection. That’s home (for now).


“Awwal Hamd sanaa elaahi, jo maalik har harr da
Us da naam chataaran aala, kise vi maidan na harda”
First, all praise is for almighty who is lord of all
Who so ever recites his name, never loses in any life

I don’t remember reading this Kalam, but it has been ingrained within my subconscious. I even don’t remember the first time I heard it. And I am not alone, a community has been bonded together with this age old Kalam.  The mountains of Pir Panjal, the Dhoks and the Margs right from across the Jhelum to Badharwa and even beyond resonate with words of wisdom.Awal Hamd is the first couplet of Saif-Malook( also called Saif ul Malook, Safar ul Ishq) and is an introduction, a prayer and praise of almighty. Saif Malook is the magnum opus of Mian Muhammad Baksh. It uses a lovestory as an allegory to describe Sufi’s journey. The magic of Saif Malook lies in its simplicity. It has been intricately woven into the local parlance and yet it is able captures magnanimity of Sufi thoughts and ideas. Text is concise and mostly deals with trails and tribulations of day today lives. Themes of friendship, ego, kinship and adoration are dotted throughout. The text opens up as the tale of Price Saif-ul-Mulk who falls in love with fairy princess Badi-ul-Jamal. It describes prince’s journey towards his goal faced with existential questions and the white Giant- Deuo Safaid. The genius of Muhammad Mian Bakhsh is in creating couplets which are complete in themselves and yet when projected together, they form small parts of a much bigger plan. Text contains over nine thousand such couplets which share a metrical form.

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