Everything I Wish You Had Told Me — A Poem by Jagdeep Raina
February 8, 2021
From the present time and within the terrain of scattered memory, artist Jagdeep Raina presents a poem that digs into a history of Kashmir beyond epochs, eras, regimes, rules, governorates, kingdoms and states. It is past all these that Raina retrieves a poetic voice, one that eludes fragmented human-made time and the constructs of its history, to give way to a Kashmiri being still on an unending quest. Fragmented time, fragmented geographies, fragmented histories, and the burdens they unleash on the present are in direct contrast with the continuity that these verses lend to the poetic voice of such a Kashmiri being as it traverses centuries and generations.

Everything I Wish You Had Told Me


On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate,
the gate that kept calling my name,
the same gate that aroused
those conquerors so many years ago.
How they dreamt of your
valley, longing for a taste.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate,
the gate they passed through once
dressed in robes of imperial glory
riding in bullock carts with domed
canopies and sedan chairs, desperate
to cut you open, desperate to eat your fate.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate.
I knew it wasn’t just those Frenchies,
but the Angraizees, Mughals,
Brahmins, Afghans, Sikhs.
How you still took them in so they could rip you apart.
How you still loved them so selflessly.
How you still gave and gave and gave.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate.
I thought of the shawl wallas,
their soft pashmina embroidered buteh,
their twill silk tapestry weave.
I thought of Maharajahs
making love to silk carpets
depicting your wonders
of these luscious gardens in rainbow colours
rolling in the pleasures of Kashmir they longed to see.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate
I thought of your copper,
your silver, your gold, your jewels.
Your papier maché, your lapis lazuli.
And your walnut wood,
carved from thick trees with chinar leaves.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate.
Longing for your snow-dusted mountains.
Longing for Pahalgam, the valley of Shepherds. Sonamarg Valley.
Longing for Srinagar, the city of Sun and saffron fields,
floating gardens moving through
wildflower meadows, yellow crocus blooms.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate.
I thought of mother who says Kashmir Katham Hogeya
Kashmir is over. But this death isn’t new.
This death happened long before partition.
And long after the Punjabi Bloodshed stained us.
And long after Amrita painted three women, and Amrita screamed to Waris.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate.
Kashmir Gate, how you were pillaged.
Long after October, 1947.
Long after Muzzafrabadi Chakothi crumbled into pieces.
Long after sisters were slaughtered behind Singhpora willow groves,
cypress trees and River Jhelum trying to protect them in vain.

On Sunday I went to the Kashmir Gate.
Mother says look how they lusted after your lush Buteh.
Mother says look how they turned it into cheap paisley.
Mother says look how Dal Lake’s crystal waters lie polluted and filthy.
Mother says look how your forests are dying—
plum, apple, and cherry trees, grapevines
and pomegranate trees, wilting away.

A Few Words About the Poem by Its Poet


This poem, Everything I Wish you had told me was inspired by visiting Lahore’s historic Kashmiri Gate in the Old City, the walled core of Lahore that was settled circa 1000 CE. The gate once functioned as a threshold leading straight into an undivided Kashmir before India’s colonization and ongoing imperialist policies in Kashmir, and it is one of the only remaining gates that was not destroyed by the British during the rule of the Empire. The poem seeks to encapsulate larger themes of my work, which looks at archives to trace histories of transnational migration and use strategies of reproduction to suggest the archive as a living object. I work to disrupt perceived fixities of the archive and recover heterogeneity in order to reactivate the archive to reveal hierarchies of power that play out across class, gender, caste, race, and geography.

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About the Contributor

<a href="https://www.inversejournal.com/author/jagdeep-raina/" target="_self">Jagdeep Raina</a>

Jagdeep Raina

Jagdeep Raina is an artist and emerging writer based in Guelph, Ontario where he teaches at the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph. Raina holds an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and has been an artist in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Madison, Maine; the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; the Camden Arts Centre/Slade School of Fine Art in London; and the Miriam Dawood School of Art and Design in Lahore, Pakistan. Raina is currently a 2021 Paul Mellon Fellow at Yale University.