Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gaw Kadal, Srinagar

(Elegy for a Bridge: Osia)

You are eleven cement pillars
and thirty nine rusted banisters.
You are a small kid who dropped
his freshly painted kangri
and ran away once the first of the one thousand
fifty six bullets were fired.
And didn’t look back to see what happened.
Otherwise he would have celebrated
his twenty first death anniversary this winter.
You are a young man who stood
like a cross inside a pheran,
five feet nine, 16 years old, hands stretched
horizontally as a matter of reflex,
to shield ten thousand nine hundred
live targets from the barrel
of a light machine gun.
Eleven meters away from the finger
on the trigger, he stood like the Chinar,
straight, uncomplicated, on his own.
He took the holes on his legs, abdomen, chest, neck and face.
Sunlight passed through his ears
as he dropped dead on the road.
You are a face lying close to a broken kangri
and flinching from the burning coal and getting a bullet from point blank range.
You are an afternoon, a memory
that hangs together,
a half-eaten pear, a winter,
a chopped off arm
and a healthy stray dog
chomping off that arm.
Nobody can eat winter like a pear.
Nobody can live inside a pear like winter.
You are a dying voice drowned by a shout
“Don’t waste your bullet. I’ve pumped enough rounds into his body. He’ll die on his own”.
You are seven shocked policemen
who came to collect fifty eight dead bodies.
Angry but helpless, helpful but unlucky, they loaded the truck and drove
to the police control room.
You are a name not known to anyone.
You say a name not known to anyone.
Maybe because the newsreaders live on the banks
of a river that doesn’t sound like the Jhelum.
Maybe because the history professor teaching
his class the nuances of state building
has kept on wearing his old glasses.
Maybe because the law of the land
orders the well-fed government employees
to destroy the old records once in every twenty years
in presence of their immediate senior.
I knocked at your door.
Please let me come in, I said.
Let me see you from inside.
A foot print here.
A stride there.
Three stumps and a cricket match.
A sentry post and a face behind a mask.
A torn school bag and a broken ink bottle.
I am not a house, you told me,
I am a bridge, I have no door.
People walk on me. They don’t stay here.
You are a bridge for cows to cross
the river before it gets dark.
You are a worried mother who tells her son
studying in the university hostel library:
‘Come back home early or don’t come today’.