Srinagar Curfew Poems

A friend called. ‘The days are empty and listless’ I said.
‘There’s little to do but look at the lake, and listen to the tear gas shelling from across the waters.’
‘And write poetry’.

Curfew Day #1

Not as bird’s life, not as child’s- W.H Auden

The ducks beneath the boat
are at it again
pulling up lily stalks
from the still of mudwaters
I forget the details
one by one by one–
as roses fade and
cucumbers refuse to plumpen
on the dry vine this season.
A man is killed a man is killed
A hawk is torqueing in slow circles.
The ripples below it
are turning on themselves.
Round and round his wounded heart.
The boats are fishing,
Are idling are gliding.
The fishing-boys are loping back.
The kingfishers are swooping. Homing in.
His father, his mother, his uncle.
The stones are skipping,
are skimming floating flying.
The lakelights are flickering around us.
A few weeks s after his brother was killed.
A wind is building
A raging is storming.
A boat is tossing
-up the contents of its belly
A boy is being killed
The Internet is dead.
The ducks are worrying
the tangled lily stalks.


Curfew Day #2

Not knowing what happens next
Then knowing.
Then knowing
What I always knew.


Curfew Day #3

I am writing to you from a far-off country- Agha Shahid Ali

Dearest friend
Do not send packages
Amazon deliveries are uncertain
at the best of times.
The newspaper comes everyday
On the streets there are many ambulances
and buses full of hospital staff.
Petrol and diesel are available
on the black market.
There is no fresh bread.
My neighbours had parathas for breakfast.
Boys are being killed.
Perhaps your papers are full of it too?
Here, they compare it to 2010.
If you write it enough times it looks
like computer code.

My dreams are very strange
an old man walks up to me.
I am in a well. Deep inside it
He peers in. Jumps .
I am in a crowd watching him.
Telling him not to. Yelling for his life.
I am in a boat looking at the crowd.
Rowing past. Waving.
I am in the well again.
This time I am sinking. Crying.
The man is in Lal Chowk in a red shawl.
The fairy lights are blinking.
coiled around the barbed wire.
The long-faced clock is neon lit.

Outside of dreams
I’m thinking of reading books
Is this when I will finally read Ulysses?
I ‘m plagued by thoughts of working
on the plots of my Unwritten Novels.
On a day like today
Shah Hamadan left for Kashmir
from Persia.
And what is to become of Persia?
Just before Internet perished
I learnt
Kiarostami had died in exile.
It is on days like this
That I can write
When The net is dead
the streets are stilled
the city is silent cinema,
the world is full of stationery.
More and more children
are being taken in ambulances,
stealthily to hospitals.


Curfew Day #4

My daily and nightly acts of self-determination
May well cost you your life       – June Jordan

31 deaths.
one for every day
of the month of July.

Though the month is only
Twelve nights old,
Only a week along, moon wise.
This month, after the month of fasting.
the papers are filled with notices
for cancelled wedding feasts
Every evening moon faced
star-crossed ones
return pelletholed.
Return not at all.
The hospital corridors
are slick with sacrifice
sick with the stares
of one eyed children.
Faces of beautiful, Beloved
one for every day of the weeks,
the months, the years
hangs in every living room
in this country.


Curfew Day #5

Nothing. Nada. Nope.

Not in the mood for poetry
I am too hackneyed with hope.
What if you called it a war and no one came?

I am too matter-of-fact with misery
What if you didn’t call it a war, then sent
Six hundred fifty six thousand,
six hundred and thirty-eight soldiers?[1]


Curfew Day # 6

Greater Kashmir is reliably informed
that a potentially incendiary
remote-activated camera-device
has been seen circling and
as it drones over the curfewed city square.
Other than, following people
entering small rooms,
circumlocuting effortlessly
around buildings
while transmitting live video
to a mobile phone screen,
it is capable of carrying 7 kgs of material.

The accompanying photograph
shows laughing policemen
chasing it like children
after a kite, on a festival day.
Asked whether it will be used to watch
or quell the mutinous citizenry,
the Superintendent of Police intimates the reporter:
‘It is my personal equipment
and I brought it from Delhi
for my personal use.

It has nothing to do with the Department.’


Curfew Day #7

Free People

It was eight am. The day had begun in earnest. The girl who lived alone in a room on the roof , watered her plant, drank her coffee and absently checked her email. The woman who wore spectacles instructed the woman who cleaned their messes, on how she wanted her vegetables chopped. The woman who cleaned up after them, listened and nodded and thought of her cycle parked in the street. The old gentleman who woke at four settled down to the first of many naps in front of the muted television. From the bus stop across the street, the man whose mother had died last week watched him. The boy who lived half way across the city had already delivered the papers. The man who ironed his own clothes had made three phone calls. The child who cheated at games walked to school with heavy steps. On A.I.R FM2 a host implored musically talented listeners to sms KASHMIR space favourite Kashmir song name so they could win an opportunity to sing Live! on the programme. No one from Kashmir could call in or send messages because the previous night, the soldiers had murdered all their telephones.


Curfew #8

The television is gone.
The newspaper offices were raided this morning.
The telephone went a long time ago.
The mosques were silenced on Friday.
The landline Internet
our last link with the terrestrial world
limps on its lasts legs, or so we hear.
The highway may be closed
Two truck drivers were killed on the road last night
And they have cut off the water at Chhanapora,
But these last two may be wildrumour.
The chowk and the ghat and the cyber café
are grown thick with it,
noisy with neighbours
In other parts of the city
There is neither food
nor cybercafé
and the neighbours are
all away at the hospital.
This much we know for certain.

The uprising has been contained,
or at any rate, isolated
to the garrisoned towns in the South,
or so they say.

Tell me, is this true?
We have so little news.

The BOOMS! of tear gas shells
coming across the lake
bouncing off the mountains.
Only, sometimes
in the evenings
as the birds fall silent,
the faint shouts of freedom.



[1] As estimated by human rights group, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society.


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Shrimoyee is a human rights lawyer, researcher and writer based in Srinagar, Indian Administered Kashmir. She tweets @shrimoyee_n

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