August is the deadliest month, bringing
hatred out of the ancient land, mixing
partition memories and hope, stirring
passion with monsoon rains

Summer kept us sweating
inside our air-conditioned rooms
glued to the Internet and TV screens

Spring surprised us, coming over Kashmir
with melting snows, we stopped in the valley
and went to the Dal lake, then to Shalimar Bagh
and drank kahwa and talked for hours.

Agar Firdaus bar rōy-e zamin ast
hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast. [1]

When we were children, staying in Srinagar
at my friend’s home, he often took me out in Shikaras
and I was always delighted. He said –
let’s row on and we went on and on for hours
around the lake as free spirits.
At night, I read stories of saints and demons.

What are the bonds that bind us, what hopes grow
out of this wounded paradise? Son of Kashmir,
only you can say, for only you know
a heap of broken promises, (for what) your heart beats
and your dead, who walked into oblivion
into silence, only
their shadows flicker in your memories
(Let their shadows be honoured in our memories)

and let them show us the path ahead
their shadows at morning awakening us
their shadows at evening rising to lead us
and let them show us hope in a handful of dust

Nainam chindanti sastrani nainam dahati pavakah
Na cainam kledayanty apo na sosayati marutah. [2]

You gave me roses in August 1947
They called me Rose
yet when we came back, late, from the Shalimar
your arms open, your face lit, I could not
speak, and my eyes could not see, I could neither
say yes or no, and I didn’t know
Looking into my heart, what to say
I wished to be left alone.

Lord Mountbatten, a seer, clairvoyant
had a hunch, nevertheless
the shrewdest politician in the British Empire
with a wicked smile he said –
“Look! Here is your last chance Your Majesty
– the Maharaja of Kashmir

Here is the accession treaty
a treaty of lasting peace
here are invading armed tribesmen
and here is Srinagar
and here is the treaty ready to be signed
you must sign it before anything can be done at all
to save you. Do not fear abdication.
I see hordes of advancing tribesmen, closing in”
“Thank you, I am ready to sign the treaty
the soonest, the best.” – Maharaja said.

Kashmir joined India
under the autumn skies of October
Indian army arrived in Srinagar, quickly
invaders didn’t think it would happen so swiftly
Abuses flew as cannonballs
each mercenary was stopped
blood flowed in the valley

the frightening sound of guns filled the air
there I saw fighting many I knew
and could not stop them, crying I said –
sons you whom I have given birth
and nurtured, stop shedding blood.

The seeds you planted for years in your garden –
have they begun to sprout? Are they growing now?
Or is it the sudden gust of wind fuelling the fire?
Oh the colonial masters are not your friends,
don’t keep them forever, with their beaks
they will partition the ancient land again
chanting – Mea culpa, Mea culpa! [3]

  1. “If there is heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”: a famous line by poet Amir Khusro, uttered by emperor Jahangir when he saw Kashmir.
  2. “The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind”: a shloka from the Bhagvad Gita.
  3. “My fault, my fault”: a Latin phrase.