Sunday, February 17, 2019

HOMESICK


Amid all the grief and anger, I hope there is room for clear-sightedness that we can move on from the cycle of violence and revenge to peace and prosperity for all. Many years ago, I saw this carved in stone at either the Shalimar gardens, or the Chashme Shahi, in Srinagar - "Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.” “If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here" Amir Khusrau.

It was my parents' 17th wedding anniversary. We were there, the 3 of us, and my grandma. One of the happiest vacations of my life! I am so homesick for that feeling. I hope we can see past escalating violence and return to a new normal of peace and cooperation. Europe was laid to waste after the world wars. They rebuilt their countries, learned to stop fighting, and grew in prosperity. Why can't South Asia do the same? A modified version of the EU model could be the solution. Efforts to curb terrorism and efforts to build infrastructure would be combined, lessening the load on both economies. The insurgency would end.

This is a love letter to the Kashmir of my memories.

HOMESICK


8 O'clock
"The hot water is ready," Mummy said
I unlidded my sleepy eyes adjusting to the slanting light coming through the blinds
I slowly woke up to the whitewashed room, colonial in proportions, pre-independence in decor
I took in a deep breath of fresh mountain air unfamiliar to my Hyderabadi lungs
This felt like my new home, oddly
We'd arrived late the previous night to a midsummer Srinagar
I was enraptured by the affectionate friendliness of the two people we'd met so far
The one serving chai in a beautiful firan, and the one who chauffeured us to the dak bungalow
It certainly didn't feel like slick affected touristy affection
These people were the salt of the earth
On the way there, there were The Boulevard, the glistening Dahl dotted with houseboats, the Char Chinar, now three, explained the chauffeur, as one had died
People walking around at midnight, tourists and locals alike
Little shops selling wazwan, carved mementos, silken and woolen wear lined the streets
"This is a party that shouldn't ever end," thought my 16-year-old self
It was like my mother's instinctual ear picked up on that thought
She asked the chauffeur if it was safe to be out walking this late
He said yes, and that summers are short here
And that he would love to park by the side of the pavement so we could look around, and not a fly would hurt us
Or, perhaps, return another night, if we were too tired from our bus ride here from Jammu

                                                                         ~ Sonali

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