Even today there are no trains
into the Vale of Kashmir.
And those defunct trains – Kashmir Mail,
Srinagar Express – took
pilgrims only till the last of plains.
There, in blue-struck buses, they forsook
the monsoon. What iron could be forged to rail
like faith through mountains
star-sapphired, by dawn amethyst?
It’s not a happy sound...
There is such pathos in the cry of trains:
Words breathed aloud but inward-bound.
Bruised by trust O Heart bare amidst
fire arms turquoise with veins
from love’s smoke-mines blessed infidel
who wants your surrender?
I cannot protect you: these are my hands.
I’ll wait by the deep jade river;
you’ll emerge from the mist of Jewel Tunnel:
O the peaks one commands –
A miracle! – from there ... Will morning
suffice to dazzle blind
beggars to sight? Whoso gives life to a soul
shall be as if he had to all of mankind
given life. Or will your veins’ hurt lightning –
the day streaked with charcoal –
betray you, beautiful stranger
sent to a lovelorn people
longing of God? Their river torn apart,
they’ve tied waves around their ankles,
mourning the train that save its passenger
will at night depart
for drowning towns. And draped in rain
of the last monsoon-storm,
a beggar, ears pressed to that metal cry,
will keep waiting on a ghost-platform,
holding back his tears, waving every train
Good-bye and Good-bye.
- Agha Shahid Ali
From "The Country Without a Post office"
|From Left to Right: Hans Christian Ostro, Dirk Hasert, Paul Welles, Keith Mangan and Don Hutchings|
PS: In July 1995, Al-Faran kidnapped 4 Western trekkers from Pahalgam. They demanded that in return of the hostages, 21 of their jailed comrades be released by India. Four days later one hostage escaped. But on that very day, 2 more trekkers were abducted. Hans Christian Ostro from Norway was one of the two. The other was Dirk Hasert from Germany.
Hans Christian Ostro was beheaded and his body found in the upper reaches of Pahalgam on 13 August. He was 27. What became of the other hostages is not known with certainty.