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JABBER — A Fictional Piece by Juvaria Syed

Jun 9, 2021

Juvaria Syed introduces a piece of fiction that is an attempted decalcomania of the ruminations of common Kashmiri people—an attempt to chart the dispersed wanderings, expressed in word, that form a variegated Kashmiri consciousness—ultimately resulting in a fictional text that is closer to reality than the framings of most mediatized constructions. The piece is shaped by nine sections that reveal fundamental preoccupations, misgivings, apprehensions, and cynicism that many readers will identify with and are felt during various periods of time. The tone registered in Syed’s fictional prose oscillates between cynical, satirical and parodic in certain parts so as to shed light on how closely the political is intertwined with the absurd in Kashmir. Beyond these limited and summarized descriptions, here is a piece of fiction that maintains a dialogue between the personal and the political. Along the same lines, Syed's writing finds its creative form between heteroglossia and polyphony—while experimenting with style to give voice to narrators who otherwise are made to remain invisible or are subjected to constant erasures and silences that most Kashmiris are well-acquainted with. The piece is accompanied by a "Reference for Code Switching" (at the end) with the English translations of specific words and terms found in Syed's writing.
How is it to be said? I am from K******, non-integral and occupied. The shape of the word embodies its own history. The K — a cleft, tugged at by two narcissistic V’s. The furrow between two ‘We-Sayers’ who want to make our ‘Us’ into ‘We'.  Not a family; a forcefully tethered servitude. Three I’s make our K — Inquilaab, Izzah, Imtiyaz — the revolution breeding suffering and differentiation of truth. Post this revelation, how you read this will tell you about where you camp. My words will prove your point or mine. That is if they do not give up midway or prove that there is no point at all, in anything. What does making a point do anyway, except for people who live in history or perhaps, who await a future that rises and sets with the sun, deferred indefinitely like the 4G? For the dead, words are dead, we are dead, the dead are dead.

I


God fails to understand our metaphors or maybe, Ze receives a censored version of our woes or else the rulers must have banned any form of theological outreach so that our sighs heavy with sorrow must have collapsed under atmospheric pressure and traded revolution with sleep. Either that or peace, in itself, must be a metaphor. How else have we been receiving only spurious versions of it? In language, we always have an option. So, for those who don’t want to believe that, let's take a leap of faith and assume that God’s Rehmat is not a metaphor. The attenuation and dissipation — from peace to mourning, imprisonments, disappearances, curfews, disasters, blackouts, lockdowns — happens during transit, for the distance between God’s abode and our land is vast. Peace is tired by the time it reaches us, so it is almost always unrecognizable to those who wait for it at their doors when it reaches with its tattered clothes and dusty white. So it roams around a little, like a sharp gust of chill or the whiff of Haakh-aanchaar and some people take it in, albeit with a pinch of salt….in their nun-chai. They keep renewing the tea to etch the mercurious taste of peace on their tongues so that they can at least speak to their children when they ask them about this chimera called peace. Our peace, then, sleeps on the clouds that look like a rich man's pillow — returned to the distributor's office, the people who had requested it appealing incessantly to Vividh-Bharti to relay their request, asking for the dobermann and ombudsmen to be abolished.          

                       Yeh Farmaaish aayi hai Nikke, Nich,
Kori-Mol, Kori-Mouj, Gobur-Mol, Gobur-Mouj,
Waeriv Aur Maaluyun Ki Taraf Se.
Gaana hai Shameema Dev ki awaaz mein
– Hakeemo Waare Wechtam,
Doadh na, Dagg Kamich Cham...

Par pehle humaari aaj ki pesh-kash ‘Jaimaala’.
Un jawaano keliye jinho ne inke khandaan ko gayab karne mein
ahem role nibhaaya hai…

Those sighs — in the form of jeremiads, elegies, lamentations — rise to the sky as a search team, chasing peace only to find out about its collaboration with the clouds and instead of bringing it home, they hold a vigil that the world enjoys to spectate as the silver lining each cloud has. The demise of peace radiates a furious light that along with our long wait to hear about the stranger that never arrived and the family sent to retrieve it is nomenclatured ‘resilience’, aliased by Mr Go-swarmi, a renowned digital brawler, as ‘the mystery of our red cheeks’. This light burns low and steady flickering in other people’s homes, across the street or the moat surrounding our valley. The resilient don’t know they are resilient. In their bodies, resilience burns like fire. Compulsive and consuming.

Our collective sighs are best kept tucked under the clouds – preserved so that they can be retrieved by historians later. The present is outside the domain of history. Condemnation waits for annihilation. After ashes return to ashes and dust to dust, they will turn over the battle-field and meticulously, with their tweezers, without destroying any specimen, sample all sighs and  investigate the curious case of a civilization that had a novel soil profile with a bedrock of petrified sighs and extremely saline underground water. They will sit behind the wheel of the bus called history and try to turn it backwards, only for more intelligent men to break the pivot of the steering wheel, for post-structuralist reasons.

Or if the clouds are too full and the sighs, having become hailstorms, start wrecking the closest ivory towers of the best scholars, then other virtual spaces, besides their minds, step up to contain the wrath. That space, sucks in, like a blackhole, all the airy tatters and builds archives — of tears and numbness, silence and cacophony or cacophony on silence — through binary digits, in 0s and 1s — 0 for remembrance and 1 for forgetting.

But wherever they go, the principle condition on which a sigh is allowed to be released is that it must be trapped. Once they are allowed to roam free, they disrupt world peace. What a shame…'All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born'.

II


Sometimes, when the Provider, the magnificent tyrant, is peeved with our waeh-waais Ze makes a cruel hailstorm out of them and slaps it across our faces. He also very often returns these requests en-mass, opens his mailbox and floods entire areas. Or just drops them all-together with a thud, shaking the earth under our feet. Mothers tell their children that it’s just the Earth laughing convulsively at Homo Fooliens. They rebuke children for standing out in a hailstorm. Hailstorms make you go bald. Shattered hopes are brutal. Children are kept in till the despair, let loose by above, has leached our land and seeped back into the ground from which it fumed, and the atmosphere is cleared of the mist of sorrows (for the onlooker). A new cycle begins.

III

 

Let us sit in while it rains pellets. ‘Once upon a time, the midwife that the Khaandaars of a Qaum chose to assist the birth turned tyrannical and claimed the child for itself. The child crawled back in with fear, the birth canal only pushed out fumes of anger. Everybody got stuck in a labour that never ended. The midwife said it is her family affair. Everyone begged her to at least call it a bilateral issue since the families had been drifted apart by a communal shift in the tectonic plates. Certain areas are divided by nature. The rest of the earth is chopped up voluntarily by humans…’

…………….I don’t want to hear a story. Answer my questions; we are not taught such Math at school – ‘If it is said that God created the world in 6 days, how long will our land take to be born? If right now the distance I can travel without surveillance is 0.0 m under ideal conditions of sunlight, after the tyrants are gone will that distance increase or decrease?

If   1+9+4+7 =21= freedom then what is 2021?  20(freedom)? …. Is it at our doorstep?

Or

2021 = 2yrs + 2019 = 2yr + freedom…..Are we already free ?

Or

2+0+1+9 = 12 = modeerf ?...... Was it taken away ?

……..Stop it, this is ridiculous.

……...Or what about the biology of occupation? That’s not a subject either even when this parturition has wrenched us for years. The violent birth pangs of our long-due, over-term land have made us writhe in pools of our own blood for decades now. This awaited child has claimed so many lives, I hope it turns out to be worth it. I hope history forgets to repeat itself, I hope we don't turn out to be the same as the country we wish to separate from.’

…Enough. Children must not ask such questions. You must go to sleep now……

IV


….beautifully, like a dead body. Everything happens beautifully in K******. Our blood is used to decorate another nation's pride. The dead are killed for a beautiful feeling of patriotism. Their funerals are beautiful. The aesthetics of our sorrow are never lost on anyone.  We cry in our Pherans, we despair amongst the crimson sadness of the Chinars and our tears flow down into the Dals and Naags. How beautiful to behold! That is the lesson.

V


Dear Sir

Hell with your beautiful. How you laugh is hideous. Your thick-lipped smile that doesn’t reach your eyes is the smile of a serial murderer. Your nasal voice makes my stomach churn in rebellion. I despise you, sir. Hell with your rule, sir. This is not ad-hominem. Send regards to your family. Boba is saying, Aechaw seeth khyeyekh syen K*****. Do relay that to your family.

Sir, in the first week of the siege, a lot of us who were outside found ourselves being threatened against opening our mouths, using social media, gathering around others of our kind. A lot of us let our minds wander to imagine how our deaths would be announced if we name a murderer-somebody or call a monster by its name. The plausible headlines for our murders would be:

  1. A nobody who was caught carrying beef in his bag and ……..
  2. A nobody who was known to be a notorious anti-nationalist…...
  3. A nobody who was caught reading in his library full of books on leftist discourse …..
  4. A nobody who was caught falling in love with a nobody from another religion…..
  5. ………………………………………………………….from another caste…..
  6. …………………………………………………………...from the same gender...…..
  7. A nobody who was illegally breathing and stealing the air of the actual citizens…..

I have heard anybody can be called a terrorist now, in a particular country. Me, you, us, that brave woman whose name translates to happiness, who dared to make us see with her camera. All except if you terrorize under the banner of a particular colour.

  1. A nobody who was found hating the favourite colour of the true natives of the country..……..

On the ___th day of the siege, a novel virus…...

………………. From the whale's belly to the whale's belly.

We have been cast to solitude, to the belly of a siege till we bend the knee.

Who will bend it?

There is no raise of hands, sir.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank the PM, HM, R**, B**, for their great kindness in letting me freely use my brain and draw conclusions. Nothing shows a greater generosity and their dedication to the spirit of democracy.

Yours truly

A constitutional protestor

Bye, rot in hell.

VI

 

The bigger tyrant and the lesser tyrant — the sublime and the base — the abandoner and the murderer — the indifferent and the spy — the Munkar-Nakeer and the drone — the Moulvi and the military — the Judge and the executioner —  both want us judged, both decree death, both curtail desire and say, "Careful what you wish for, if you are a K*******, you just might die wishing for it."

What does it feel like to have a wish granted? A comparative feeling. Evident only in juxtaposition with deferral. In any case, we won’t be able to tell. We only feel the absolute sad and the foundational ontological emotion — guilt. But it is a sadness fuelled by hope (maybe the red-cheeked resilience) and that is the only way we allow any hope in our life- as an alloy of distress. We feed ourselves morsels of hope and then we run to the streets or hold funerals of fallibility and inconsequentiality. That eats our anxiety for the next few days — that shattering of hope with a crash and a thud flat on our face because that deadens us. We induced little doses of hope to remind ourselves to never hope again, never hope bigger than our fallibility, never hope at all because we are nothing but fallible.

So, when a buffering revolution lets us down, we wake up at Fajr and pray and eat failure for stability, extol a more magnificent tyrant to fight the hideous tyrant. We pray and blow our manifestos on the faces of our beloved. Sometimes we are so full of apprehension that we swallow dread for peace and sometimes so filled with resilience that we imagine peace as resistance. Life here, as it broods under the shamiyana of resistance, oscillates from ascetic dispassion to passionate excess. Haven't we attempted both ways to attempt living? Haven't we always dithered from death to life to death?

PROOF? (it's not in the pudding anymore, organizations left it back in the oven. Now it has burnt to soot and a team of interlocutors has been assigned to scratch the scraps off with premium dishwasher that works on the principle of convincing the scraps to lose their stubborn nature and come off — what for do these molecules cling to Azaadi? The interlocutors are befuddled at the irrationality): If you don't want to take me for my word, you can send a special team of gravediggers to verify my claim that many of our dead have grown old and rotten under the sod waiting for a judgement, from either of the worlds. Waiting shrinks the soul.

VII — In the Capital

28th Day of Siege

Hello? Anybody?

Anyway….I want to say …….. In these last 25 days, I have often walked the streets of the capital of a mock democracy and found myself searching for a sudden turn in the road that would lead up to a house where an old woman, anybody's Boba, would be sitting in the garden overlooking the trimming and taming of wild flowers and grass in a light blue Pheran and a white daej. Her thin, Henna-coloured, fragile plait would be peeking from under the daej, spiralling around her shoulder and landing straight on the silver threaded tille-kaem. She would stand up and rest her weight on the hands of the chair which would then shake with her. She would smile at me and ask "Nunchai chakha?", with a smile that would reach her eyes.

My nights are spent searching for answers. Do you have a corner of your own to escape the disciplining eyes? When is the right to download new music going to be restored? Any idea?

Is Mouji spending all her time pulling out the weeds from the garden? On Sundays, Mouji would often complain how the ‘Seyyi’ have destroyed the ‘Haakh’. She will have enough time to clean each leaf by hand now.

I don't know what Papa does all day. Is he lighting cigarettes in the hope of setting these immutable moments on fire? Has this unpleasant leisure pushed him to crave for more tea than usual? Many years ago, he used to pray only when nothing occupied his mind. Has he finally started praying as much as Mouji or has he given it up? To give us a problem and give us free hours to think about it….. I am sure papa is overthinking. Amidst his numerous sprawling books that Mouji has, in vain, tried to serialize all her life, he must be lying, thinking about something else, something nothing.

Anyway, I must delete it now……

Saved, Dated: (5th August + …...today)

VIII


Hello...mic check...

….‘Our slogans echo in the valley, they return from the mountains. We are talking to ourselves. Who will take the responsibility for be-maddening us? Our lives have waited for political decisions to be made… for legal procedures. Of course, there is documentation and paperwork involved in making life available to people. We have to wait for certain signatures on certain loose sheets to allow us to breathe and live with dignity.  Our happiness is subordinate to a contract. Agreements decide whether our houses are our own, whether our home will have one, two or three parts, LOCs define our relationships. Too bad if the new borders cut across the courtyards of your families. Land not the people. Land. Power. Nationalism. Ego.

A certain country, my dear friends, has divested itself of the garb of democracy that it had for so long used to cover up its monstrosity and has swallowed us. It is dark and desolate inside the belly of this siege but history has chosen us to fight this monster — this Goddish monster that kills the people to kill the problem, that stifles dissent to feign unity in diversity. Justice, in the courts of a monster of a country, has been weighing light on the scales of law. We have to hold our side down till the blinded open their eyes. We have to give the law its eyes back.

But where should we get the resolve from? Why should we push our women in front of the predators, why should we offer our men for torture, why should we make our mothers wait for their sons, why should we make our fathers beat their chests for their daughters? Why should we spill our blood, why should we spend our lives fighting, why should we cry for a new martyr every month, why should we choose to battle grief all our life? Why should we be called the children of conflict?

It is too late to ask these questions. We have been chosen by history to be the descendants of the ones who were wronged, who were sold, who were stolen of inalienable rights, whose Pandits were pitted against Muslims, whose Sunnis and Shias were carved out of Muslims. Now that we are in it, we have to fight this war not against countries or communities or people but against tyranny, subjugation and against power. We, who are the inheritors of suffering, have to pass on justice as our legacy. We have to be the faces of resilience, of rebellion, of humanity so that when we are remembered we are spoken of as people whose will couldn't be annexed by military strength, who could not be bought by power.’

IX


…Switch it off, will you? I am tired of passionate oratory. History has often made a fool out of people. Remembrance lasts only as long as the world does. Eternity is only as long as life. It matters only as long as we live. If you decide to die fighting, you should remember that history forgets and when life ends, principles of natural justice, concepts of dignity and uprightness die an instantaneous death. It will sound base in the face of heroic principles but our intellection and its lofty ideas are metabolism-dependent.  Well, anyway, if you choose to live like that and die like that — painfully — choose it because it is better to die of rebellion than to die of old-age.

……well it wasn’t meant for you. Keep your death talk to yourself and fetch me some tea, will you?  Ever too cynical. Pass me my notes please…

Notes


A Collection Of Casual But Highly-Acclaimed Thesis Notes On Conflict Resolution Through Bibliomancy And Necromantic Neurobabble Involving A Methodology Descried By Esoteric Glial Cells Ciphered Only By Recondite Sapients : EVP Recorded Messages From The Other Side.

  • God is not dead, keep looking for him.
  • All K******* are alike. Some are dead, some are dying, some are living dying-ly.
  • K******** manage to maintain a homeostasis unless shot and clairvoyant tourists will soon declare them safe. The larger point is that nobody can kill the dead. Alternatively, the dead can’t harm the living. Approach the issue metaphysically.
  • Visitors must not get scared of the strange noises and murmurs they hear when taking pictures with profound epitaphs. Our bodies are a grave teeming with life. When we breathe our breaths wheeze Inna lillahi wa ina illai hi raja' oon. Policy makers must fund the putting up of sign-boards saying, ‘This has nothing to do with you. Enjoy your vacation!’
  • The matter of living and dead is only a metabolic question here. We manage to maintain a homeostasis, occasionally, unless we are shot. Live at your own risk.
  • Words are not to be trusted. Don’t ask why. All you need to investigate is everything you have lived.
  • When you lay dying, there will be an analepsis. That's history — the final letting go. Your pain is not history, it flows. You haven't let go, you haven't forgotten.
  • At night, a tornado of discordant chattering fixes its eye on each grave and siphons details to the topside. We are raised helically and the quaffed bodies are thrown down. Get to the bottom of this. Knowledge is power.
  • Conflict is not the main part of conflict. Dig deeper. We’ll see you there.
  • Write to us, we’re bored.

Reference for Code Switching

 

Inquilaab /Urdu/  Revolution

Izzah / Koshur/ Inconvenience, distress

Imtiyaz / Arabic/  Distinction, Differentiation

Rehmat / Urdu/ Mercy

Haakh-Aanchaar /Koshur/ a variety of pickle in Kashmir, often sold in large open containers on the streets

Nun Chai / Koshur/  a soothing pink milk tea, salty in taste

Yeh Farmaaish aayi hai / Urdu/ This request has been submitted by

Nikke, Nich, Kori-Mol, Kori-Mouj, Gobur-Mol, Gobur-Mouj, Waeriv, Maaluyun /Koshur/ terms describing filial relationships; in sequence: a son, a daughter, a father of only daughters, a mother of only daughters, father of the groom, mother of the groom, in-law’s house, parent’s house

Ki Taraf Se / Urdu/ from

Gaana hai Shameema Dev ki awaaz mein / Urdu/ The song is in the voice of Shameema Dev ( a famous Kashmiri singer)

Hakeemo Waare Wechtam, Doadh na, Dagg Kamich Cham……. / Koshur/ lyrics of a popular Kashmiri song

Hakeem /Koshur/  wise man; learned man who can treat ailments

Waare Wechtam / Koshur/ examine me thoroughly

Doadh na, Dagg Kamich Cham /Koshur/  if I have no malady, what ails me then?

Par pehle humaari aaj ki pesh-kash ‘Jaimaala’. Un jawaano keliye jinho ne inke khandaan ko gayab karne mein ahem role nibhaya hai /Urdu/ But first, our special programme for today ‘Jaimaala’, for those soldiers who played a vital role in annihilating their family

Waeh Waais/ Koshur/ a Kashmiri word for sighs or anxious lamentation. The ‘s’ at the end is the English norm of using an ‘s’ to create plurals

Khaandaar/ Koshur/ Patriarchs; heads of a clan

Pheran / Koshur/ a loose garment worn by Kashmiris

Dal and Naag / Koshur/ lakes

Boba / Koshur/ affectionate term for a motherly figure

Aechaw seeth khyon / Koshur/ losing something valuable to envy, malice and greed of the onlookers.

Munkar Nakeer/ Arabic/ Angels in Barzakh (phase/place that separates the dead from the living ) who ascertain the status of a person's faith after death by questioning

Molvi / Arabic/ Islamic Religious scholar

Fajr / Arabic/  crack of dawn; one of the five Salah times for Muslims

Shamiyana / Urdu/Hindi/  Marquee; Gazebo

Azaadi / Urdu/Koshur/ liberation

Daej / Koshur Headscarf

Tille-kaem / Koshur/ embroidery

'Nunchai Chyakha?' / Koshur/ 'Will you have some tea?'

Mouji /Koshur/ mother

Haakh / Koshur/ a staple green leafed vegetable in Kashmir

Seyyi / Koshur/ tiny insects

Inna lillahi wa ina illai hi raja' oon / Arabic/ Truly, we belong to Allah and truly we return to them; consolatory remark made at the time of a tragedy, loss or death

Koshur / Kashmiri / the Kashmiri word for the Kashmiri language

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About the Contributor

Juvaria Syed is currently a Research Scholar at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad.

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