I am walking in Srinagar
City of countless undelivered letters
Still a floating post office
Letters of vapour by unhurried hands,
Wait over the lake of sun
Hopes wait without paper, without ink
To read that same story
Again and again, that unending elegy…
The day offers no choice
Whether you remember or you forget
The floating post office
Cools the letter before it reaches land —
The land of prying eyes
Srinagar, garden occupied by paranoia,
Where lizards in olive
Transfix you with their nozzled glances,
Trample Srinagar’s sky,
The green face of a girl darting across —
A fear on her sleeves,
She conceals injured birds in her heart

I am under Srinagar skies
Shapeless, free skies of a blue country,
Boys, their tongues blue,
Sing to the sinking light over the lake —
Putting ghosts to sleep,
Girls walk by extinguishing the sunlight
Lips, blue with goodbyes,
So impossible to look into their eyes —
To hold attention eye-to-eye,
The darkened mountains between us
Rise to separate our silence
I find their hesitant glances escaping —
Perhaps in search of a toehold
From where they can believe my face

I open my book of salutations
I read of the infidel’s love for khuda
A chorus in Urdu rings, “again”
English ghazal in the custom of Urdu,
Fruits of your doing, Shahid,
I reread lines from ‘Ustad Saaznawaz’
Voice of the weeping lake
Lake of dead branches and a corpse,
Trails of blood in the water
The lake is guarded by sea monsters —
Feeding blood to the water
Turning the water into a hungry beast
City of floating post office
Srinagar — corpse-in-waiting — floats
Without any fear of death

I meet Rehman Rahi, who had warned
— Do not become history,
History interrupts all conversations
Between poetry and death,
History comes with its record books
Turning people into things,
Rahi sahib hugs me, we bid farewell —
He dissolves all mountains
Before the sea of hearing between us,
Only by hearing the dead,
He suggested once, we learn of death

I inhale the time of arrival
My arrival at the doorsteps of Srinagar
Interrupts a city under siege
I leave behind my house of solitude,

I remember arrivals from other ages —
Of kings and wild horsemen
Sowing taxes over the labours of men
Of ascetics, their disciples,
Poor refugees who fled persecutions,
Sowing names of the divine
Between conversions and tribulations
What will a people choose?
Kashmir offered asylum to new gods —
Went mad over its saints,
To match their agonies against kings,
Kashmir, duped paradise
It can tell between a saint and a king
And who will last longest

Two women in pink and black scarves
Walk with me and a friend
They trust us more than any country
Hearing is trusting in Kashmir
We enter the old shrine of Hazratbal,
It feeds all homeless pigeons,
A young boy helps me click a picture,
Where idolatry has no place
The women in pink and black scarves
Their smile, a green breeze
Dissolves the air around Zabarwan,
I can write a hundred letters
In praise of such ancient distraction
And leave the letters to float,
Without any address, over the Dal


Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer, translator and political science scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has contributed to The Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, Huffington Post, Outlook, The Hindu, The Wire, etc. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Mudlark, Metamorphoses, The Postcolonialist, George Szirtes’ Blog, etc. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine. He is currently Adjunct Professor in the School of Culture and Creative Expressions at Ambedkar University, New Delhi.