Srinagar, My Jaan

Srinagar jaan,

I’m fading out.
Hairs fall out of my head
Like leaves fall out of Chinar.

The ink in my pen is drying out,
I don’t know for how long it will survive,
Or even me for that matter,

But before either happens,
I want to write
An ode to you, my love.

The last time I visited you, you were fragile.
I sat down at the banks of Jhelum and cried.
I cried as an instinct rather than an act.

My ears were ringing with the years of abuse
You’ve suffered at the hands of your motherland.
I wanted to write about your beauty, janum,

But to call you just beautiful and not haunted
By ages of torment, bloodshed and pain
Felt like a betrayal to you,
To my art as well.

We have failed you.
You were young,
We brought wrinkles at your door,

That formed bends in your skin,
Charred your soil.
Do not forgive us.

The dove flew over the tomb of Dargah Sharif,
With a letter in its beak,
Before it was shot down.

The snow turned red with the ink
Spilling out of its wings, and
The city went silent.

Each step that I took on your land
Reminded my feet of the anguish
Of war.

Children play carefully in the streets
Of Shehre-Khaas, aware of the agony
Each tripping stone carries.

The vendors sell red roses on
The corners of Boulevard Road
And women hide kangri beneath
Their phiran to keep cold and distress at bay.

I am sorry. I am sorry
That we failed you.
You were young.

I visited Wular nearby.
Its waters were turning black. A bunch of geese
Were waddling around its banks.

It was peaceful for most of the time.
My ears had stopped ringing and
The dove’s wings had stopped spilling.

I still left my heart on a boat there
And I don’t want it back.
It’s easier without it, you see.

Mahlaqa Batool is an undergraduate student from Jammu and Kashmir who writes confessional poetry and is a passionate reader as well.

Featured image: Suhail lone/Unsplash