From My Memory to Her Heart – A Poem by Khawar Khan Achakzai

Mar 18, 2021

On August 5, 2019, Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution were revoked to enforce the status of Union Territory on the state of Jammu and Kashmir without democratic consent from the Kashmiri people. As a measure to quell expected upheaval, the internet, TV channels, mobile telephony, landlines, press, public transport and air travel were taken out of circulation by government order while more Indian troops were moved into the Himalayan territory. In the pitch drop silence of indefinite siege, a poet wrote from his memory to “her heart” not knowing when his message would get across, while even houses from adjacent neighborhoods were left without communication with one another. This poem by Khawar Khan Achakzai is a reminder-in-verse of that time still fresh in the collective memory of Kashmir and its peoples, and a testament to the fact that no lockdown, siege or territory-wide curfew can keep a longing Kashmiri heart from beating.

From My Memory to Her Heart

 

My country has a telephone number,
it starts with a K and ends with grief.
The peaceful soldiers stay on guard by the gates
of the telephone exchange,
not a heartbeat escapes their curfew.

They check the identity cards
and love letters,
written when the phone lines
have been drowned
in the static of marching jackboots.

While waiting,
I wrote out of a fading memory:

soldiers built papier-mâché coffins
of applewood, that smelled of orchards
and fumes of gunpowder.

While waiting,
I wrote out of a fading memory:

ambulances carried turquoise jars
of “missed calls”
their number plates read JK01-K-GENOCIDE.

I wrote out of a fading memory:

poems with no meanings
captioned on the walls of army camps
with torn flesh and broken bones.

Not a heartbeat escapes the curfew,
the envelopes stuck in the grooves
of barbed wire;
from my memory to her heart
her mail remains guarded by the peaceful soldiers.

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About the Contributor

Khawar Khan Achakzai is a doctor and researcher by profession with a specialisation in Internal Medicine. He is a student of Kashmir history, philosophy and post–colonialism, with works published in various local and international magazines. He is the founder of Aagosh; a forum that is active against child sexual abuse in Kashmir.