Vulnerability is strength.

Pickle of Grief — Three Poems by Rumuz E Bekhudi

Nov 10, 2020

Kashmiri poet Rumuz E Bekhudi brings us three poems that, although reflecting on the present predicament that Kashmiris are faced with, go far beyond to trace the lines where dispossession, suffering and tyranny are drawn, and with them the space where resistance is born and persists. These three can be read as individual pieces of poetry but remain tied together under the title “Pickle of Grief” because aside from the complex emotions that emanate from such verses, grief is perhaps the most palpable and common. Readers are advised to expect verses that are not easy to behold given the violence and brutality from which they emanate. However rigid the nature of such violence, it leaves cracks from where such poetic verses find momentum.

I

APOLOGY

My Laila,
if only and somehow,
the Zephyr meditating in the Zabarwans
gives refuge to the fortunate fugitive shrieks
that managed to escape
from the walled-up torture chambers of Papa 2,
and ferry to you a word or more
of a long-due apology
—since I could not protect you.

I could not protect you
that unforgettable day
they rendered you without memory,
stripping off overnight
all the senses of your being,
your identity, your history, your demeanour,
leaving you naked and vulnerable
to satiate the fetish
of a cheering, dehumanised crowd
—satisfying their collective conscience.

That wretched day,
they rent your robe asunder
to make national flags out of your torn hem
as if these were
souvenirs of their sacred vandalism.

That quiet day
they stole songs and dirges
from your partially unfurled crimson lips
and muffled your mouth with gunpowder,
silencing you until
silence became the only language you knew.

That cursed day
they mummified
your whole body in concertina,
injuring every helping hand,
building concrete bunker embankments
along your lash line
to prevent any rebel tear from showing up.

That clear day
they bewildered you
with self-perpetuated rumours of war,
disease, conspiracy, crackdowns and witches,
to break your resilience of never giving up,
and put on display
the violent rape of your right to self-determination
as a consensual exchange of ghost benefits.

That dry day
they sold you to themselves
to buy the high
that intoxicating barrels
of toxic nationalism gives them,
as if to compensate for the shallowness
of a 56-inch broad chest,
which had nourished itself
on scavenging the dregs
of a forgotten massacre.

That gloomy day,
when its preceding tenebrous night
spilled its darkness
over every next day since,
and macerated all the nights that followed
in faithful, non-deserting grief.

With my eyes sieved by pellets,
hands burnt in acid,
legs deformed by lathis,
chest dented by boots,
voice choked by teargas,
home razed to dust,
backyard filled with bodies,
orchard fenced by mines,
I apologise
—I could not protect you.

But Laila,
they may have our bodies,
they can never claim
your heart and my blood.

II

CONVOY

As I am told
that on an indifferent hospital bed
my pale and frail
Aunt is
lying;
I’m here in my car,
weak- kneed,
sitting,
halted unceremoniously
by an Army man,
high on the feel of AK47,
standing.

Stances of power?

We are all waiting;
She is waiting for me,
gathering the creases
of the emaciated hospital bedsheet
in between her pale cylindrical fingers,
as if it were her overused rosary,
She, stubbornly holding on
to her belief in certain magic
that the touch of a familiar hand
subjects a burning forehead to.

She must have kept
her glass of water undrunk,
wanting me to chant Yaseen on it first.

I am waiting too
for the Convoy to end,
my eyes bleeding red
from counting and measuring
the span of each mechanised monster.

They seem larger today!

I watch helplessly with forlorn hope,
my otherwise robust patience
being mowed down, turn-wise,
under the blatant arrogance
of each galvanised rubber tyre;

Every diesel demon
mocking at my forced inertia
even the smaller ones,
passing in a deliberate slow motion,
taunting me, ridiculing me,
for being on the other side
of tyranny and gunpowder.

The verses of the Yaseen
wait crowdedly on my tongue
to be ferried across
to a glass of water awaiting too
like fishermen of a capsized boat
wait for a ship to pass by!

The Army man waits too
foreplaying with the trigger of his gun
fantasising the tyranny of brute power
to control, manipulate, halt,
cage, maim, rape, kill
at will,
then achieving his orgasm with
the uninterrupted ejaculation of the Convoy
on the face of a hapless population
dirtying their time, patience, dignity.

Image courtesy of the poet

III

A LETTER

Dear friends from a free land,

as all the roads leading to
the valley in gloom
from distant plains of hope
stand closed,
with the avalanches of despair
washing away most of the track
and the rest choked and buried
under the thick blanket of identity theft,

there is an acute shortage of supplies,
here in the valley of surplus gloom.

The connectivity seems non-restorable,
the roads unrepairable

but people are managing somehow.

quintals of grief have been pickled and preserved
to be consumed slowly
in these harsh winter months.

Some of it may suffice until
the almond blossom of the coming spring
or may be up until the chinars glow golden
next autumn.

As always, It has been a pattern now.

Mothers, fathers, families, neighbours, traders, employees, employers, street vendors, mall owners—
all have lost interest in their jobs.
They have turned to sun-drying sorrows,
constantly preparing spice mixtures
of uncertainty, fear and loss,
arranging, cleaning, freeing air-tight jars of patience
to come up with sufficient stock of grief’s pickle.

What else can be done here?
We have lots of idle time and
the ingredients are in abundance, skills as well.
Phonecalls and the Internet are scarce.
Grief isn't.

What else can be done
in a country without a post office
the privileged, left way back
carrying their gods in their arms
like babies?

Will write back soon.

Yours,

"Call me Ishmael tonight"

Image courtesy of the poet

Share This!

About the Contributor

Rumuz is a poet based in Kashmir. She can be reached at rumuz.e.bekhudi[at]gmail.com.