write to me, agha shahid ali
It is a dark and deliberate irony that today’s poem, penned by the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, ends with the words “write to me”. Kashmir is a dystopia. It has been under a communications blockade for almost three months now, and this last straw (the abrogation of Article 370 and other unconstitutional state measures) is a terrible footnote to the decades long persecution and human rights violations engineered by the Indian state in the valley.
A lot of Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry talks of the memory of home, exile, and is written against the backdrop of the Kashmir conflict. He was an “exile poet”, like Mahmoud Darwish, or Reinaldo Areinas, whose words piercingly bought home the atrocities committed by the Indian state on the people of Kashmir; and what it means to live in a constant state of terror. His writing is doused with the pain of cultural displacement, and a ‘paisley' shaped hole filled with despair.
This poem is filled with hope, and the anxiety of waiting. Like the people who have not heard from their loved ones in Kashmir, Ali’s lovelorn plea is thrown into the wind. Nature is his accomplice - the confidant, the messenger, who understands the despair of separation.
But the exhortation is filled with hope and love. not resignation. This resistance - the spirit of the intifada punctuates his writing. I would like to believe that while he would despair in the face of what is happening today, his eyes would flame with the spirit of resilience that he has so beautifully personified in all of his writing about Kashmir and its people.
Agha Shahid Ali
The moon did not become the sun. It just fell on the desert in great sheets, reams of silver handmade by you.
The night is your cottage industry now, the day is your brisk emporium.
The world is full of paper. Write to me.