Sunday, January 13, 2008

Azi dies...

Azi is in pain, sad eyes, Swollen, shut
With grief for a Son languishing inside Tihar jail.
Azi wants to see her son, I read in the paper.
Air pipe attached to nose, she won’t breathe, refuses.
She needs assistance to breathe.
She needs more, her son—a reason to breathe.
One meeting - to add some life to her breathes.
Some moments - to reclaim a mother’s feeling.
Last wish, one meeting at least
Just one last time, just one more look,
Just his sight, just for a while, Just for azi,
for her swollen eyes, To subside, with her sons sight.
But, they won’t allow her to meet
They don’t open the prison gates.
Gates that open only to close, forever.
Gates that separate-- sons from mothers.
Sons from fathers; brothers from sisters.
But Mother, mother wants come in at least
And see her son from the prison bars
But they won’t even allow that
And Azi dies in the intervening night;
the news cries out the next day
Azi dies...Azi dies...
Azi breathes her last, before meeting her jailed son
Her last wish, unfulfilled
Her son, still in jail, unaware of mothers death.
A mother dies for her son across the prison gate.
Eyes closed now, forever shut like those prison gates.
They won’t open now to see her son free
But she will meet him above, in God’s kingdom.
Where there are no prison gates, no Tihar jail
Just Azi and her Son
Free to meet, Free to embrace

Agony of waiting

There is one thing that weighs heavily on a Kashmiri mind. That is, ‘wait’ - a prolonged agony. It is that restless state in which you see hope when there is none. You want the wait to end when it gets only longer. You wait for someone to come and end this wait when infact - nobody comes. Over all these years of violence and bloodshed, we have waited for peace. In return thousands of innocent Kashmiris rest in peace, inside graves, in oblivion. The rest of the people who survived are left without peace of mind. We wait for that peaceful life, that elusive peace of mind. Kashmiris are waiting for their problems to be solved by those who are part of the problem. Those who can solve Kashmir issue have only problems to offer. We are waiting for a solution but getting only sufferings in return. Till now the wait did not bear any fruit except- more wait?
Wait is a common thread that runs across day-to-day life in Kashmir. You wait for your near and dear one’s to return home safely. You wait when the curfew is imposed so that it is lifted. You wait for the encounter to end. You wait for hartals to end or begin. You wait till the security man frisks you to move on. Or if you happen to spot just a little more beard, then you have to wait more than the clean-shaven guys. You may think other wise, but your identity is suspect in their eyes. Your identity card will be scrutinized more closely. Even on streets you have to wait and give way to security vehicles. If you happen to be traveling by public transport and suddenly that dreaded ‘convoy’ happens to pass by. You are made to wait till all those army vehicles whiz past with armed men atop blowing threatening whistles.
Dare you come in between that convoy even by mistake, that may turn out to be the most fatal mistake. Wait and watch is all you can do. You can’t go ahead of these military vehicles; they have to be ahead of you, always. That’s the unwritten rule on our roads which every Kashmiri has to follow. Even our poor traffic policemen know it. They just look on, and wait, while these vehicles take over our roads.
First they are allowed to pass by and then our vehicles can move on. You see, Traffic rules are meant for public transport while security vehicles have their own rules. Actually they make all the rules and we are just supposed to follow them, not question them.
Here everybody seems to be in wait for somebody who can end this wait forever. For those who lost their loved ones, the wait is on for a peaceful tomorrow when no one is killed for being an innocent. Those whose sons disappeared in thin air are waiting with moist eyes for their return home. Their wait never seems to end. Theirs is a prolonged agony. They will wait for their dear ones as long as they breathe. Similarly our youth are waiting for a bright and prosperous future to live in. where they are no longer asked to produce identity cards in their own homeland by those who come from outside. The youth are waiting for a road ahead not a road that leads nowhere, a dead end. The youth are waiting for a tomorrow where they can realize their dreams. Not nightmares of today where shadow of guns looms large - on their dreams, on their future. Where only thing certain is the uncertain future. How long will this wait continue? Yet again, we will have to wait for this question to be answered.
People wait for those rare and endangered species - sincere and honest leaders. Leaders who can lead all of us out of this mess we are in. But till now they remain like fugitives -most wanted. The wait is getting only longer and painful. Although our so-called leaders and politicians would have us believe that they are the ones we were waiting for .That our wait is over as they have arrived to take care of us. We learn our lessons latter. Here we put our trust in them and there they betray our trust. It does not take much time. It is just a matter of time when they change their positions, statements, parties and what not. We realize in retrospect that they were actually waiting for power, while we waited for them.
They actually believe in serving their own interests rather than serving people. Of course they do serve their people but only their near and dear ones. Once we put our trust in them and let them call as our representatives. It is only then they begin to represent their own interests. Suddenly they become inaccessible to public, moving around in high security cavalcades. Once in power they are not supposed to meet people, people have to seek appointments to meet them.
Our leaders are least concerned about creating more leaders like leaders should. They are happy with only more and more followers who are supposed to follow them, blindly. Our leaders make promises that they cash upon latter for their benefit. What we realize latter is a lesson – politician’s make a lot of promises but they never keep them. Where are the visionary leaders? Where is the vision? Only power is in their vision, and that’s what they see. Our ‘leaders’ have nothing to offer except calls for those endless strikes and ‘hartals’. Our leaders have the sight but no vision to offer for the future. They can see for sure, but they don’t want to see the reality. They can see their own interests but not the interests of people.
Now we are waiting for intellectuals to make us understand this complex feeling of wait. But intellectuals of substance who can enjoy the trust of people, whom people can look up to and take pride in their scholarship, intellectuals who can fill the vacuum occupied by our politicians, not the ones whose scholarship is half-baked. Not those who can easily toe the official line in lieu of some reward or award. Not those who enjoy official patronage or use their intellect to get official positions. But intellectuals who can resist government favor from time to time, and question the official version for public benefit.
Intellectuals who are ready to suffer for people and articulate their pain and sufferings to the world. Intellectuals who are not afraid to tell the truth, and expose the lies of the powers that be. Intellectuals who don’t cry hoarse from rooftops, but are on the ground, hand in hand, with the common people. The intellectuals who are from the people, by the people and for the people - the public intellectuals. Intellectuals will not come from outside to fight for us nor can we expect them to. Intellectuals will not be revealed onto us; they will have to spring forth from the people. The sooner it happens, the better for us. The wait is on, for them.
We are caught in the complexity of this endless wait. Entangled in the present quagmire, waiting to be set free. What needs to be done to end this wait? Wait more or wait no more? When will we wake up to that dawn signaling the end of this wait? Woe subha kab ayae gee? -When will that dawn break? The dawn that will no longer be an illusion. The dawn that ushers a new beginning of peace and prosperity.
Hopes sustain life. We can Hope for that dawn to break soon. Hope.
Woe subha kabhi to ayae gee.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Seeing hope in hopelessness

Question: What is the future of Kashmir?
Answer: Good question.
When past was imperfect and present is tense, and when past was soaked in blood and present is baying for more blood, the question is what can you expect from the future? And what can you expect to see in future? I don’t have an answer except--hope. Hope of a better future, hope of a better Kashmir to live in. I am hopeful because hope means promise; because it is only hope that cheers you up amidst the despair of present hopelessness. I always hope, for a better tomorrow, even if people tell me that there is none. I am hopeful of a Kashmir that is bright and beautiful and peaceful even if I’ll not be there to see it. The present has nothing new to offer to the present generation except hope of a better future to live in. We can always hope. We can all hope. Perhaps, we can only hope. But it’s good to hope because hope looks towards future, emerges from the present, and forgets the painful past.
The only soothing word that provides solace amidst all the dispiriting words we live amongst—violence, conflict, armed forces, bunkers, hartals, guns, bullets, encounters and political uncertainty—is hope. Hope is like that soul in us that has not yet died, will never die, can’t be killed, escapes death and reminds us of life, ahead. Hope is like that invisible thread that pulls us all towards that promise of a better future, towards that thought of a better future. Hope has that inherent promise of being fulfilled in future. Hope lives in our hearts and reminds us to-- take heart; things will be better, soon. Keep hoping, hope says, but don’t sit idle, work on your dreams that you hope to realize one day. And if we look closely, there is hope even in hopelessness. Hope gives us sight when we are unable to see. Hope is blind man’s sight. Hope shows the vision when our sight is blocked. Hope provides wings when we are unable to walk. And then we fly and no longer walk. Hope even rises from hopes that are dashed to ground. Even from the ashes, new hopes emerge.
Another question: How long can we hope? Answer: don’t ask.
Because it doesn’t matter. Because we will still hope, keep hoping for that prosperous future no matter how long it takes to realize. We will continue to hope even if we know that there is no hope. Even if people tell us-there is no hope, stop hoping. But we hope. Hope against hope. We are hopeful. Hope after hope. We are hoping. One hope, another hope, many hopes. Hopes innumerable:
We hope Kashmir issue no longer remains an issue. We hope Kashmir dispute is solved, conflict resolved. We hope our voices are listened, cries heard, and aspirations met. Amidst violence we hope for peace to prevail. When we hear gunshots on the streets, we hope nobody is hurt, and people survive. And when somebody is wounded, we hope he doesn’t die. Amidst death we hope for life. And amidst that life before death, we hope for better life, for peace. Engulfed in the darkness of present, we hope for light to emerge, and show us a way forward. Amidst our leaders gone astray, we hope for leaders to emerge, and leadership to lead. Amidst many divisions, we hope for unity. Amidst wavering opinions, we hope for a firm stand. Amidst changing statements, we hope for a principle stand. Amidst the dilemmas of our belongingness, we hope to belong somewhere. On the path of destruction, we hope for progress. Amidst all of our collective melancholy, we hope for happiness to return. Amidst pain, we hope for joy to bring back cheer.
No matter how violent present is and how bleak future looks, we still hope, and continue to hope because that’s all we can do. Hope is that thing in our hands which no one can destroy. Hope is that possession of ours which no one can take away from us. Hope is an invisible thing but it is still there in our hearts and minds. Like a ray of light, hopes emerges and lights the path of a brighter tomorrow, for a better future. That ray of hope then turns into light, becomes a torch. That’s when hope becomes a reality of what we once hoped to live.
You can kill people but you cannot kill hope. You can pump bullets into people, make them bleed, spill their blood, but hope is impenetrable to bullets. And hope does not bleed like us; it only breeds more hopes. You can make people to disappear, jail them, torture them, make them week, but hope-- hope will still remain there, firm. And hope will triumph in the end. When nothing remains, hopes emerge. Hopes sustain life and sow the seeds of life that is ahead, that is better than the present. Hopes never rest except on more hopes. Hope is everything and often comes out of nothing. And when everything is lost, hope remains. And remember when hopes are lost, everything is lost. Everything.
Here, my words of hope-- come out of the present hopelessness, for a better future, for a better Kashmir, which I know is distant but not that far