I Am Not a Kashmiri, but I Am Sorry

Every day I wake up
Irritated by the sounds of my alarm clock
I know you are jolted awake
To flashes of bullets and pellets

To sons that never returned
And husbands: not dead but never found
To valleys glistening with the dew of tears
and blood in equal parts
And homecoming songs without homes
I am sorry

I am not the pen that awards punishments for crimes you didn’t commit
But I am sorry
Because I didn’t even stop those
And you are ours
Yet we no longer feel family to you
I am sorry

You’re fed on
Proportions of public employment
To compensate for the deaths of your family members
And you no longer know if you should weep at the turn of events
Or just take the compromise offered,
because your little sibling hasn’t eaten for two days
And you are forced to choose between hunger and grief

We are blind to bodies piling up outside your home
I know your mother wakes up to the smell of stale blood
and cold bodies, much like our cold hearts
And I am guilty of waking up safe and clean

I never forget your annual winter visits at our doors
With incredible embroidered shawls and Pashmina
Made by hands we shall never hold
You smiling a tired smile on your bright face
Gulmohar flowers in your soft and sad eyes
Has the rage melted away all the snow?
Is the water of Jhelum now replaced
with discarded dreams and displaced lives?

I see you are here, but you are not
You’re wondering if back home everyone is still breathing
And whether the money in your hand is for new school books or for another shroud
If your daughter fell victim to unaddressed exploitation
And insult descended from her head to her belly
Bulging and melting insides

Forced to hide a shame
That should only be his

But it is hers
A woman’s body, you see, is never really hers
And still meant to be protected only by her
Like a jail, you begin to call home
And you forget if free was something you ever really were

I am sorry we still hope you will want to live with us
Your screams have died
We have your tongues tied
I see them making promises and they seem true
Your daily losses now don’t even make it to news
We have taken away your dreams and heart
So when you come for answers, we shall again depart

Aishwarya Shrivastav is a 21-year-old history graduate from the University of Delhi and author of ‘Mouthpiece’.