Kashmir’s resident poet Rumuz E Bekhudi presents a poem shaped by an economy of verse that packs volumes and tomes of meaning into eight small verses—communicating the silence that makes islands out of beings submerged in a state of loneliness, even amidst a togetherness buried deep in the fabric of a society engulfed in a never-ending war. That togetherness is versified here, made apparent and revealed because the condition of a Kashmiri solitude—and the bunkerized fragmentation of a few decades that sets its tone—is directly confronted by a centuries-old culture of storytelling, of congregation and conference that is core to being Kashmiri. At once, with scarce electricity as a constant, images of the candlelight and the lalteen emerge from recollections of another time.
With such devices of illumination, the tradition of storytelling comes to mind from a collective memory found in a history when sounds of gunfire in the Kashmiri night did not exist. The poem in its brevity conveys the hunger for someone Kashmiri to be known to someone else (also Kashmiri), in that space where storytelling is another means for bearing witness. The need to be heard, to fight off disappearing into silence, is conveyed towards the second half of the poem while the first half might come across as being characterized by a light sarcastic tone.
Such impressions are disproved by the last verse that remarkably reflects the struggle against an ephemerality that is imposed on the Kashmiri projected as a ghostly subject, a being made purposefully invisible by the applications of power. Visible beings, like objects, can be moved around and deterritorialized. Invisible beings, on the other hand, need not be moved, because they can be treaded through and through, as if inexistent. The poem, morose in its tone, is Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” hardened by the broken reality of a Kashmir broken further by war, in a society where people are rendered inconsequential even to themselves and to each other. Such a broken reality does not even allow for a complete and absolute sense of belongingness, only a few morsels—perhaps sufficient to mark our presence in this world past the transience of human life. Beyond any such meanings and interpretations elaborated in this editorial introduction, there is far more substance and depth to the poem than one can find in much of the “Instagram poetry”—particularly because it risks describing a people derailed from themselves through political articulations that are alien to them yet enter invariably into the domain of their personal lives.
We are all street hawkers—
calling out, spreading,
only to earn,
by the evening of a tiring lifetime,
a few morsels of belongingness.