The Partitioned Land (After TS Eliot) - Abhay K's image
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The Partitioned Land (After TS Eliot) - Abhay K

KavishalaKavishala June 16, 2020
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‘The Partitioned Land (After TS Eliot)’: A poem to recollect Kashmir and Independence


August is the deadliest month, bringing

hatred out of the ancient land, mixing

partition memories and hope, stirring

passion with monsoon rains

Summer kept us sweating

inside our air-conditioned rooms

glued to the Internet and TV screens

Spring surprised us, coming over Kashmir

with melting snows, we stopped in the valley

and went to the Dal lake, then to Shalimar Bagh

and drank kahwa and talked for hours.

Agar Firdaus bar rōy-e zamin ast

hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast. [1]

When we were children, staying in Srinagar

at my friend’s home, he often took me out in Shikaras

and I was always delighted. He said –

let’s row on and we went on and on for hours

around the lake as free spirits.

At night, I read stories of saints and demons.

What are the bonds that bind us, what hopes grow

out of this wounded paradise? Son of Kashmir,

only you can say, for only you know

a heap of broken promises, (for what) your heart beats

and your dead, who walked into oblivion

into silence, only

their shadows flicker in your memories

(Let their shadows be honoured in our memories)

and let them show us the path ahead

their shadows at morning awakening us

their shadows at evening rising to lead us

and let them show us hope in a handful of dust

Nainam chindanti sastrani nainam dahati pavakah

Na cainam kledayanty apo na sosayati marutah. [2]

You gave me roses in August 1947

They called me Rose

yet when we came back, late, from the Shalimar

your arms open, your face lit, I could not

speak, and my eyes could not see, I could neither

say yes or no, and I didn’t know

Looking into my heart, what to say

I wished to be left alone.

Lord Mountbatten, a seer, clairvoyant

had a hunch, nevertheless

the shrewdest politician in the British Empire

with a wicked smile he said –

“Look! Here is your last chance Your Majesty

– the Maharaja of Kashmir

Here is the accession treaty

a treaty of lasting peace

here are invading armed tribesmen

and here is Srinagar

and here is the treaty ready to be signed

you must sign it before anything can be done at all

to save you. Do not fear abdication.

I see hordes of advancing tribesmen, closing in”

“Thank you, I am ready to sign the treaty

the soonest, the best.” – Maharaja said.

Kashmir joined India

under the autumn skies of October

Indian army arrived in Srinagar, quickly

invaders didn’t think it would happen so swiftly

Abuses flew as cannonballs

each mercenary was stopped

blood flowed in the valley

the frightening sound of guns filled the air

there I saw fighting many I knew

and could not stop them, crying I said –

sons you whom I have given birth

and nurtured, stop shedding blood.

The seeds you planted for years in your garden –

have they begun to sprout? Are they growing now?

Or is it the sudden gust of wind fuelling the fire?

Oh the colonial masters are not your friends,

don’t keep them forever, with their beaks

they will partition the ancient land again

chanting – Mea culpa, Mea culpa! [3]

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