Table of Contents
  About the Poetess
  My Father's Country
  Azadi: 1989-1995
  The Yellow River
  Summer Rain
  Mother's Day USA
  Bride in Red
  My Dream
  The City of Dread
  Kashmir Today
  Sukeshi has a Dream
  Autumn Rain
  The Story of Ganesha
  Washer Woman
  The Ever New Poet
  The Yogi
  The Rishi
  My Death
  Self Spectre
  Autumn Song
  Book in pdf format

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Azadi: 1989-1995

In November rain
I look for you,
shivering in a red coat,
holding back words.
Dried flowers pressed inside
an old book, perfumed
by whose hand?

Last leaves on bare branches
shudder to see me so young,
peering at names of houses,
odd and even numbers.
I thought that you lived here,
somewhere near Sherbag.

Fenced with ivy, the ancient 
garden smells of death.
Rose beds are graves, fountains
speak of tear dried faces -
their unaccounted for grief.

The streets near Sherbag
used to be wider, sunnier.
Rows of ugly houses did not crowd
like they do now.

Twenty years ago, four Chinar
trees stood stout and solid
inside the high walled garden
of my school right around
the corner. We used to play a game.

Something to do with the distance
between the Chinars.
How we made triangles and crosses
getting from one to the other.

Why are the shops painted green?
Graffiti on the walls tells
me a bad story, a blackened tricolor.
Pakistan's banner installed in its place,
its half moon being kissed
by suppliant lips. 

In those days too people had a vision
of the Land of the Pure.
They dreamt of what they called
Azadi, even then.
Yet, the police station was not
a dangerous place.

People sat around and talked
of Azadi as if she were
a woman in Persian legend.
Layla, perhaps. 
The Mujahid was no sly,
self hating, masked killer, 
but Majnu. 

He who journeys
with the moon and the sun,
wild wind and black clouds
when stars hide their faces
in a vast desert, and the desert
runs ahead of him.

What nation 
does not have a dream
like that? 
History is a nightmare
from which we cannot wake: 
we cannot arise.

I have heard of house to house
searches for young men with beautiful
hair who hide frightful weapons
in their sister's hope chests.

To the women who love them
they tell nothing except that
one day Azadi will arrive 
at everyone's doorstep. 
Life will become prettier, more
honorable, more pious.

Who are these men?
I would like to ask you.
I would like to know
why their dream of Azadi
excludes me, and my people.

Those who were born here,
but were not entirely free. 
They did not dare to dream, 
whisper, or scream. 

You thought Azadi
could be courted, wooed, and wed, 
without shedding blood.
You thought it could be made
to become a wife who does not stray;
never demands a price, a gift, a sacrifice. 

[© Lalita Pandit, June 10, 1995].



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