Friday, 29 March 2013

Thank God For Little Pleasures - XIII

“I sit beside the fire and think 
Of all that I have seen

Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring 
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet 
And voices at the door” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, 8 March 2013

A Curfew in Spring

Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, is under tight curfew. Tight does not qualify curfew. It qualifies Srinagar. Srinagar is tight under curfew. The city has stopped breathing. It is an enforced exercise that the Valley undergoes regularly for the sake of law and order. On the deserted streets of Srinagar, Indian Army men stand in army issued jackets nursing rifles under the fresh green leaves of the chinar. Occasionally a milk man cycles by. Sometimes, he is stopped and turned back. Sometimes he is allowed to pass, after an identity check.

When the government finally decides to lift the tightness, the people will emerge from their houses and search the markets for everything they have been denied all this while – medicines, milk, flour etc. All this before the second round of scourge begins and confines the people into their homes again.

In the frightening unsafe quiet of the curfew, spring has quietly arrived in the gardens of Kashmir. Of course, without the gardeners there is not much it could do. The snow has melted away and the grass is slowly turning green. The sky, however, is alternating between blue and red. An occasional shower of both hues keeps the memories alive. The memories of Kashmir!

The faint smell of new flowers hasn’t been noticed. People are still to get over the pungent smells of pepper canisters. Pepper gas canisters are a new favourite of the paramilitary. The recipe has been perfected to serve the right amounts of law and the correct potions of order in the inhalers. Apparently, over doses have some side effects. An old woman, who wasn’t used to it, died. (Alleged cause of death, of course.)  A middle aged man with a balding head opened the door to his house to look on the street. He saw three army men standing outside his house with batons and thick glass shields. They wore pads like cricketers and bullet proof vests. He shut the gate and sighed. A scared photo journalist captured the moment and drove away. This is the usual series in curfews if at all media men are allowed to wander on the streets.

At different knots in the city people gathered to shout angry slogans. At various places groups of young men collected to pelt stones at the armed paramilitary forces. They ran hither and thither, fired pepper cans, bullets and hid behind their armoured vehicles. Days like these are rare, when no one is killed in such clashes. However, by evening the news of casualties were unleashed upon us. A man injured here, a boy assaulted there. So many cars damaged, so many policemen injured. People now read these reports with the discomforting air of a terminally ill person reading his medical reports. It’s a relief that something faintly positive comes up. Dozens have been injured in the past week of curfew.

The mildly warm afternoon sun lulls the branches of the apricot trees where new buds are only yet germinating. The vines are turning green on caged bricks of the wall, wondering if it is the right time to break into flowers, or shall they wait for a more opportune time. The breeze treads cautiously over the dangerous terrain. Carrying too much perfume in such times could be unholy. The zephyr understands that. It loads itself with the laments of the weeping silent. Some those who cry out loud, others that obscure the pain.

Appeared also on
Appeared on Kashmir Reader