Ennui

The other day I saw news of a 14-year-old publishing successful books over a virtual platform and by the looks of the covers that the books portrayed, the fonts, and the design gave me the impression that the books she wrote held considerable position given it was such a highlight. Throughout the world, unlike us, people like this fourteen-year-old teenage girl utilized their time to create while we were busy procrastinating. I objectively looked back on everything I had done so far with the time I had at hand and realized that nothing of value came to my mind. I do have a habit of self-deprecation, nothing I do seems good enough in my own eyes thus the excuse to not do it at all.

I wonder what stops us, people who feel a sense of guilt watching others work their way up but never give themselves the freedom to do the same. What gives? I guess her circumstances may have been unique in a sense for her to produce books one on top of the other, you need to have that drive that keeps you from falling short come what may. My point is that I had similar aspirations once, perhaps I still do, I guess my resentment comes from my self and it is just projecting at the moment. I wonder how many years it has been before I had the privilege of making sense of it or at least holding on to its momentum.

A few days back, I started reading “On Writing” by Stephen King because I was ashamed of myself for not doing what I wanted to all this time. In contrast, he never stopped writing even after hundreds of rejections later, fearless in his pursuit. This is what is he says:

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I feel like, English, even with its diversity of words can’t capture the complete depth of feelings in general. On occasions, while there may be a word for everything in this language but nothing hits the spot like a word borrowed from another language. French, for what it’s worth has expressions that will be naked like a tree branch. These are feelings, expressed by certain words that make complete sense to us while knee-deep in exhaustion. The anxiety accumulating inside your chest is as if a boat- normally hollow- was breached by waves in an endless sea. However, French people built this one word; Ennui: a state of restlessness that rises from the lack of occupation or job, like a song plays in your ears but the language is unknown. They know what they’re doing with their language, their job as a language speaks volumes about human emotion in the most singular way possible.

At times like these, you also want to think about things. Nothing specific at all. Although there must have been sunny days like this in the past that I practically slipped by. I can’t remember anything or choose not to. I have to ask myself why that is. But that in itself is something I don’t feel particularly psyched about. The always erring mental images that might come to me if I am due for a task like this. Even so, if I ask you to tell me something you remember about a day as clear as this, I wonder what you’d do. I wonder if my restlessness is mine alone, the wasted motivation that flies by every time I wake up planning to make the day count.

However, the more you think about it, the more fascinating it is. I’d like to rip the band-aid sometimes. Find the address to a day that seems ridiculous to bring up and have a laugh. The laughter doesn’t exist, nor does the crying or sobbing. I’m filled with frustrations and frankly biting my nails as I recall anything briefly. The idea seems simple, I don’t think I look back too often. Also, honestly, if I find myself adrift to only sift from what I can remember of my significance- perhaps it will be worth it.

Looking at the state of us, our lives dull as grey slates with nothing but futile metaphors that we’ll never come to face. No roller-coasters for our emotions, or our lives, a straight line from the start that is afraid to bend. Our existence must be almost alien, what’s a college graduate to think if all of the past three or four years come to your mind like a clear mirror reflecting nothing but a projection of you. Void of everything, a ball of the skull for a face removed of its senses.

A twisted sense of horror it is. You know the taste of hunger, you’ve had years of experience with it but as you age. Something about it seems off. My mother still cooks the same way, the taste is the same but it never feels the same in your mouth. Only your memory seems to recall the taste. At these times, I wonder if I am picking up on the taste. It’s so weird. Your sense of taste is affected for various reasons and you don’t look forward to spending time at the dinner table. You can only think of certain consistencies, like how your food of comfort somehow still retains the taste. You feel the hunger, you feel the thirst but you’re looking for sustenance and nothing other than sustenance has crossed your mind for a while.

It’s fair and foul. You don’t know how it began. You don’t know what caused it, but’s spread like a web inside your lungs and it is heavy to breathe the same air every day as you wake up stifled from your sufferings. There’s probably is a lot on your plate or it is empty, like a wrapper in the wind, you’re flailing in the wind. I have not for so long woke up and said something positive about myself. Stephen King talks about his alcoholism in the book I mentioned earlier, after years of writing he’d come to realize that he had been writing about himself. While I don’t write as often, but it’s a deep-rooted problem that I don’t realize my worth. I am writing so I can come to some closure with myself.

It’s not the food, or whatever you think it is.

Quarantine #3

Saturday,
March 21.

Listen, the world is not ending anytime soon, while you sit by and watch the rain fall tirelessly into the depths of empty streets, strangely you’ll feel at ease. This isolation should be imposed on people regardless of the state the world is in. I feel maybe like me, some might feel like staring into a hopeless distance while the sound of their roof is being drummed to a sing-song.

While some may write letters, like I do, only because I feel compelled to write letters that withhold the name of the people it is addressed to. Letters that are personal, yet make sense to others as they read them, filling them with hopes. Not singular but many.

Someone will probably wait, think of the moments that pass by and fearing to not give them up so plainly, attach something of significance to it. A certain melancholy, or smell or a distant sound and then fold it into a neatly ironed memory. Afterwards, it will remain true as I am tempted to admit thay things will come together at their worst.

While those that run out of paper, ink or energy lie in their beds and are indulged in stories of past, present of future— will not be left behind to weigh the debt to mankind.

It is what we owe to ourselves, that we find ourselves at intersections of our own company to seek things that are trivial or important or plain stupid. That we hold on to things as we recall them and pull them out of our minds as they swim towards a great nothingness.

I should tell you, that with the rain pouring sharply into our eyes and then our hearts, I remember things that make my heart sway like a ship in a heavy storm. I remember her, at the balcony door that I left ajar, begging me to come inside because the wind was starting to get chilly.

There’s cold wind blowing this evening, and rain, as I keep saying is falling tirelessly.

ubair.

Quarantine Letter #2

Dear friend,

The days are getting longer as the sun learns to bridge the distance between itself and the Earth. The sunlight has its way of becoming warmer and there are no sunflowers in this place. I don’t see you waking up like your usual self if I’m being honest, your hair is dry like paper and when you look into the mirror it’s like the light leaves your eyes. As if you lose yourself inside it- like you’re swapping your lives with someone on the inside at a cost of something insignificant.

The light caresses your face slightly, you close your eyes and you’re back here. The curtains are drawn. The chipped ceramic of your sink is a memory keen to someone who lived before you, in a place that is your home now.

In Spain, the people are being sung to and played from pianos, serenaded early in the morning to spare people from the loneliness which perhaps is their only companion. But the buildings here aren’t tall enough so you may never hear them sing for you. The walls are white, you try to hold back the urge to write on them. In this time of isolation, you’re going to have to face it; the good and the bad, it’ll all come to you. First, like a whisper and then it’ll be like a gurgle in your throat, then when you go to sleep, you’ll realize that it’s going to take a lot more than sleeping it off.

It’ll all be bared to you, in a room all by yourself and if it is support you seek– you’ll find it but not in the people around you but yourself. So hang in there, the serenade will find you.

Love,
ubair.

A welcome song

Wherever it is that you are/The soft song of your exile/Is echoing in this country.

Its loudness resounding/as the chiming bells of grass blades/slicing the rain for your voice.

And the man toiling on end/ without no one to pay for/he described his pain like this:
The moon eclipsing the sun/a scarring black shadow/that erases your existence/to a figment of imagination.

The moon sneaks to draw the sun/escaping a painful gravity/sinking it’s bare hands into it’s boiling gut.

the knocking is a serenade

At night; your men are armed to teeth/ the timbre of their boots outside my gates/ a proposal past.

A river; the rock split into blood and /thorns seducing their way out /miserable gaps of solitude.

The dogs; rising to the occasion/ pouring their vile hatred of you/ signalling your imminent arrival.

The house; your kind turned it upside down/ my mother still mourns the lampshade/ that saw the sole of your boot.

The voice; the call to prayer is amiss/ the voice has been defiled/ the echoes of dismissal from our homes/ are alive.

The fate; that they caught you alive is regretful/ and worse/ the lights are grim as the night/ our door has had many visitors of late.

Letter to Myself

Dear Friend,

All deaths seem unfortunate, even the one’s that are well needed or that are unwilling to pass on. It may be needed if torment is all you ever felt or were kept from a liberty that you longed for so much, begged for. It is a disguise often told that some things are protected by fate and even the dust of them, their ashes, belong to it until it doesn’t. Afterwards it’s grains become sand, a construct turns to bitter sawdust for us to walk all over as the heat turns it to embers and our feet are scorched.

Now for you and I, for us, only the rendering will be a bit slow. I will be trying not to overreach but the image of you is quite exalted in my mind, circumstances are not quite what you expected. You see, sadness will likely catch me off-guard any second, it is not up to me anymore or when I get affected. In truth, I have no hold over its arrival as much as I’d like to admit. It does seems like you’re susceptible to suggestion when you’re sad. Like you’re ripe for taking.

I’ve an anchor attached to my waist and it only feels like drowning when I press too hard. I have several times felt like all I could do was succumb. The struggle was cold and shallow as it often is, never reaching and swimming past it is a nightmare to say the least. Most days I give up, it’s so dark to even see where the light comes and isn’t it rather an easy convenience to find it in the dark with it’s selfish glow? Or does it even glow at all?

The spring season is settling in, my mother suggested that we plant some roses; mere meters of broken boughs, just outside our home. There’s a small plot that is mainly used for parking now, it banks a small stream- which is dead or dying by the way- and another small river that is quite dark. The water looks like flowing rust. It is flanked by local Evergreens, which were so rudely crushed by our neighbors when they cut the trees on the other side of the river bank.

Perhaps the rose buds would have been a good greeting sign but then again, I had to deny. We have historically chased things until we’ve ruined them and made them severely irreparable. Who’s to say the same wouldn’t happen to them after we’ve put our efforts and our resources? Its true that it takes a months for the buds to become flowers, the roots to grow deeper and the branches to split. It’ll grow to be all kinds of beautiful I’m sure but I had to keep its fate in check, so I planted them within the walls of my own and thereby patiently await for them to bloom. I’d be risking their lives if I were to put them outside.

I’m sure there are nicer things in the world, I’m sure there are certain things that we wish to protect but we don’t get to do that part sometimes. Things keep moving forward even when everything seems to be moving at a pace that is averse to our own. It’s alright I suppose, we’re all broken and on the mend. Our lives, countless lives are being spun back up, we’re a sum total of all we’ve been. All we can do is, look past it and hope that one day we’re untethered from it all.

Yours only,

ubair.

Log 14th July 2019

Kashmir has been uneventful as ever lately. The summer isn’t going to stay long and before it even began, it rained pretty often for the month of June. Every now and then there are subtle showers that intermingle with the sunlight, their presence concealed as they hit the baking hot surface of concrete, or soil. I never felt the heat where I live, a quiet wind would always appear out of thin air and casually flutter the curtains. But it’s getting here as well, the need to avoid the sun that soaks itself in the skin too much, imitating a burn of flesh like that of oil. I have barely had any contact with it past few days, it may conjure in your mind the image where the curtains are drawn and my face barely visible without light, but I have had things to eat and plenty of sunlight filtering through six windows of my room. My first contact is usually in the morning, when it pours in through the window facing the sunrise, and caresses my feet like the soft warm sensation of bare skin.

However, the calming peace I think one is supposed to feel in the cacophony of bird calls and the soothing sense of greenery, isn’t entirely enough sometimes. I’ve got myself in all kinds of things therefore I barely write anything, but I make notes from time to time. Although I am often late to realize that I never actually write them down. Truthfully, I don’t feel motivated enough and yet I feel the guilt of becoming listless towards writing or books. I have forgotten the angst I used to feel, or the anxiousness of certain things that would otherwise make me want to pour my heart out. It is as if this sensation is fleeing on a cloud. As if in constant motion. It never sets in, it only rains from time to time, almost out of rage.

I brought it up a while ago while Hondo and I left college one afternoon. It was just the two of us. The new bridge built over Jhelum has a small space excluded from this plane of existence, we call it hospice. It’s under the shade of a chinar from the end of Rajbagh, as you ascend the stairs, it hides in the left corner. Below stationed are a bunch of houseboats and Jhelum flows without barriers or such. We Kashmiri’s always talk about Jhelum like a belonging, and my mother says there was a time they would drink from it. There’s no particular reason to it though but I guess it’s always been that way. Meanwhile, the water looks unsightly and the color continues to pass under our eyes as a natural scenery. But to oppose that truth single handedly is a burden I cannot entail. At hospice, you gaze this truth into it’s eye and it glares you back like a faceless demon.

The way I pursued my writing was unnatural I think, I wore myself down by getting envious of people that were better than me. I’d start by gathering more knowledge which naturally meant reading for hours. It is said that imitation is the best form of flattery, however I did not do either. I did not imitate or flatter anyone but myself. I always lead myself by instinct but those around me, set checkpoints or a standard for me to achieve. I wanted to get better.

It doesn’t feel the same way now as it did before, not saying that I arrived at a pinnacle but it feels like the end of it. The change isn’t noticeable, its complacent or hidden I suppose and as long as I don’t witness it myself, I can’t go any further. I can’t bear the feeling of passion that I need to have to write better. I poured it out, bit by bit, and I explained it to Hondo. It felt reassuring what he said. The more I heard it, the more sense it made. It felt like I was finally able to confront it all without anything holding me back. As if it was meant for only me.

Hondo has been working out lately, so the analogy wasn’t a surprise when he began with it. I do not remember enough to quote him but I am certain that I can recapture the essence or the heart of our conversation. It started by talking about growth, when a person starts working out his statistics start to increase every day since he started, the difference is clearly visible and can be felt without doubt. This consciousness of growth takes a mind of its own, until a point of time where it’s rapid growth becomes a slow phenomena. The difference isn’t noticeable or being felt anymore, it feels like a waste of energy to keep going without anything to yield. This is the moment when he introduced a term, not unheard of, but completely befitting the situation. He called it the plateau. He continued that after you hit a plateau— by definition, it is a state of little or no change following a period of progress; that the yield is there, the efforts aren’t going to waste he said and are only hidden to my eyes. That it was like the river Jhelum, moving gradually but unstoppable. That gave me hope, it encouraged me to go on.

Hondo is a sage. Believe me.

As the feelings flowed freely inside me, every part of me wanted to write. I wanted to recreate what I felt and after a long while, I wasn’t powerless. It didn’t concern me what I wrote as long as I wrote something.

This poem will dissolve itself

In your memory, that drowning

Ache of sorrow that lead you here.

Don’t make tiresome promises to me.

Even now, camouflaged from the shade

Of the sun, no binding light pierces our

Thick armor of deeply knit shadows.

Jhelum, quiet as always flows by.

The concrete ghats now sing a requiem

For the tumbling insignificance of wasted waters

The piousness vanished from the crystal past.

A man ferries you across, faceless.

One is devoid of love, the other at

The shrine, longingly covets your face

And your hair flailing is out for lust.

(14/07/2019)

Log 2nd April; Tuesday

Log April 2

The idea is to live through this and don’t let it feel like a denial in the end. The idea is to exhaust ourselves and realize that we were never too far or too close to something ideal or recuperative. The idea is to sweep it under the rug and call it a day. It isn’t the most trivial passages I have ever written and keeping the record of the day is only slightly interesting. The days are all the same, it’s getting brighter and brighter every day.

I met an old teacher of mine while I was on my way to college. He acknowledged my writing when no one else did and I realized that he’d grown so old, that he had become a person of small talk. Time does that you; you are bent out of your shape and you become a radical product of your forgotten intricacies.

I never told him how he inspired me to keep writing or how much his small attention to my writing meant to me. As much as I struggled to get it out, it came from my heart and I thought he needed to hear something like this.

I was not asked for a uniform today, (Yes, we’re facing the freshman indifference, they’re trying to break our spirits but there’s a back gate they keep forgetting about) no one bothered if I walked in straight or twisted. There is a lot of hustle today; sometimes the guards have to open the gate a trillion times during the day. For a college avenue it has a rather busy traffic. The sun shines through the thick naked trees and some of us are wearing a monochrome shade of clothes and I am not one of those certainly.

It’s our English class; I’ve not seen anyone come yet. We’re discussing a play originally written in Marathi and later translated into English, about a woman in a patriarchal society and we know it goes sideways. Men have had their ways of marching into a woman’s life and thinking of it as insignificant— our professor has made a terrible mess of it, I am not sure if the play is bad or the professor. Hondo thinks he is cool for letting us waltz into his class even if we’re late sometimes. He waives his bad teaching only for the reason that he lets us come as we please.

There’s translated poem in the play that goes like this:

Our feet tread on upon unknown

And dangerous pathways evermore.

Wave after blinded wave is shattered

Stormily upon the shore.

Light glows alive again. Again

It mingles with the dark of night.

Our earthen hands burn out, and then

Again in flames they are alight.

Everything is fully known,

And everything is clear to see.

And the wound that’s born to bleed

Bleeds on forever, faithfully.

I found it deeply unnerving, not like I was scared or anything but it was deeply satisfying as it withheld inside its lines such intricacy that another writer felt the need to create a whole play to justify these lines through the life of a woman. Not surprisingly, the professor ruined these lines for me like he was blind to the power these couplets, and he just walked them over without realizing anything. It broke my heart so I have vowed to myself to enter twenty minutes late always in an unofficial protest.

Doodlebug and Moody were sitting on the unkempt steps of Bukhari Hall, our existence is etched to those corners and no one questions us. We’re the masters of our own freedom in certain volumes when we get to decide which class is not worth it but I suppose our meaning of freedom is only partly acceptable since it lacks defiance of some kind.

Doodlebug couldn’t attend the skills class which is ironical because we just write how-to instead of practically applying them. She has been assigned the task of finding speakers for some program happening in our college, there’s a banner that says its punctuality week, and I guess that’s what it is. I really want laugh though and by that I literally mean cry my eyes out. Amar Singh College is progressively ironic and they haven’t got a single clue about it.

Anyway, Moody’s failing love interest is a coming of age global crisis. There’s a freshman he likes and speaks highly of even though the dialogues never ensued. However, since the first eye contact, there have been no developments and its freaking me out because I survived and hour long ‘here’s my opinion’ talk from him.

There’s a test I couldn’t care less about my answers. Skills class is a practical joke. Period.

Doodlebug joined us back at the steps of Bukhari Hall. Idle as we were, she and I sang our heart’s content. Quietly that is, Hondo joined in too and told me to make up stuff in my presentation but I really can’t do it like he does, he lies with certain degree of air and you’ll never break his defense on things he firmly believes in. I can only learn a few definitions and immediately forget them. I have a bad case of memory.

Day before yesterday, after his presentation was over and our professor wanted reviews on it, I called him out for his unpreparedness. I couldn’t really get my point across because I was yet to formulate it properly. Since it was said, Hondo defended himself and when he asked me to prove my ‘allegation’; I broke sweat looking at him so defiantly calm. It was fucking artistic, I tell you.

After my presentation was over and I realized I’m a real stick-it-to-the-book more often than I can admit, it was Shakespeare’s turn. He was presenting on English Language, a very clichéd one but it sufficed him enough to get his hands off of it. Dick the mouth-breather wasn’t having it though; he wasn’t ready to accept English as a universally accepted language and ignorantly denied everything. I would fairly discard him from my life, I’m just saying.

The whole presentation took a serious u-turn because our two most ‘qualified’ students indulged in a situational dialogue that went back and forth to no end. Even going so far to tell the professor that she was wrong and at that point Hondo and I were practically dying inside. It was escalating, there was no stopping them. Dick the mouth-breather made no sense and we had to put up with it. It was brutal. Hondo, sadly repulsed, looked at the professor and imitated a gunshot to his head.

Even outside, Dick had the same undertone of ignorance. He is desperate to find a girlfriend and knowing his nature, we’ve offered no help nor do we intend of offering it in future. But that doesn’t stop him. We are not blind to his sudden exits and entrances, his excuses to run off and then roam around college. He has fooled himself into believing that we have no idea when we really do.

On very same day, on our way home, we heard him flocking a bunch of female passengers into a cab like he was a shepherd. “I think he’s secretly opened a Harem.” Hondo said in my ear and I couldn’t stop laughing. And when I confronted him about it he denied everything. I even saw the girl who he hangs out with go red and it was evident from her face that she was embarrassed to be seen walking with him. I’m sorry I’m complaining too much, almost like I hate the guy to bits. I don’t really

Karla called me while we were leaving college and asked if we could meet, sure enough we did. We met in Ground Zero, our usual place meet and nothing about it has changed, and I like that. She had bought a chew toy for her cat, it was so unbelievably soft but she’d not let me have it. I could only have it if her cat comes to hate it. (It didn’t.)

My existence to her is less trivial than her cat’s. That I know now. She was serious and she also confessed to being in love with more than a few people. Perhaps it was to hide the truth that her heart is miserable and has learned to love people from distance rather getting close to anyone. It is a sea of fire and you’ve have to drown inside it.

She complains that I never write her in my logs and I protested that I have but she probably doesn’t remember it. Again, our recollections are fleeting, terrible rather. This café has held out for hours, it’s almost like our second home and it isn’t complete with just the two of us sitting there laughing without a care. Our dearest poetofblues is in Bangalore and will be home soon. Then we could spend an entire day sitting here and mocking each other for good.

When we left, everything felt momentous and as we walked into the sun towards the bridge that connects to Jahangir Chowk, I told her I always miss them when I walk this bridge at this time and I walk it often. I have written about it, about her and about how happy and light I felt when I met her after I left Kashmir for Delhi for the first time ever.v

Log March 31st— Sunday

Yesterdays’s sky was the most blue.

It was a perfect Sunday. However, I had to leave to meet a friend, Faiz. I met him before I left for Delhi; there was never a right time to meet him after I came back. I have been going to college for three weeks now and I’m already tired; as the college schedule is restoring itself and allowing us to build our lives around it once again, it’s hectic and tiring for me to travel all the way back and forth locally. But all things considered it is worth it, not because the college is doing remarkably well; recently our admission block was burnt to a crisp in a fire accident and therefore most of us are record less. Aside from the fact that it has been collectively remarked that it was rather convenient for something of that scale to pass soon after renovating the whole block but only and only for the friends that I have made over time, am I fond of it.

Today isn’t about college; it is about the undeniable peace of the bund and I. The small road that is adjacent to Jhelum, the serene calm it beholds, the symphony of the quiet graveyards that it entombs, the houseboats and the post offices that we so finally have. There are light gusts from this part of the city; most of them rise from the hem of the Jhelum that runs parallel to it. You can feel the crisp quality of air affecting you; it’s like being cleansed, like your body is being filled with scared incense burning in the mosques.

I cut through the small link road that connects us to the bund side of Lal Chowk near its famous clock tower; it is also where the oldest missionary school is located in Kashmir and right next to it you will find a Christian graveyard with this inscribed on its gate:

“Jesus is the resurrection and life” and a small metal flower has been added to it at the end.

I was standing at the Footbridge which connects the two sides separated by the river. This is where Faiz met me and together we crossed over to the bund side of Lal Chowk.

“I called the Collector; he is on his way here.” He said.

It hadn’t crossed my mind to call him, but I was glad he was coming. We walked along, talking about Delhi and people of mutual interests. Just enough that it didn’t feel like small talk, we talked about writing and a beloved couplet by him:

“They have infused

My eyes with molten lead,

My wait has become

Urgent and heavy;

Like an ambulance.”

Everything passed us like a faint wind, everything rushed and cut close corners with us and brushed its fingers unknowingly around us. The Wall of Kindness came on to us as wanting and forgotten. The clothes hung like corpses, as if a soul had shed its skin and had forgotten the remains. Everything cut close corners with us but my friend seemed oblivious.

The Collector’s favorite joint is a tea vendor, who has fixed his existence in front of a post office without concrete and has become a landmark in itself. This is where we waited for him, talking about things and our feet slightly dangling off the table of an uneven edginess. I called him but he didn’t pickup, and then I saw him walking towards us, I could tell tht he had woken up early today by the way he wore his face like a mask of purgatory; as if in a hurry he had forgot to leave all his baggage at home.

We greet each other properly, hunger in my stomach settles in and the by noon the temperature started rose, gradually making us aware of an approaching summer. The Collector takes us to the weekly Sunday Market that begins from Polo View and there, right there is a book stall I never thought I’d see here, selling books at a fixed price. He owes him money he says and somehow it did not surprise me. In the middle, we learn about the history of a guy I couldn’t being myself to like but hearing his side of story from the Collector made me feel like our burdens, our complaints were nothing but a ripple in his.

“That’s why he’s so fucked up.” Collector says.

We shuffle through a lot of books and the heat starts digging into my backpack. The sun is at its zenith was only getting brighter every minute. People throng at such markets and for a while I didn’t have the urge to run, I shuffled through bools like both of them did. I was happy and I was discovering things, new things that had been breathing secretly in this place of imposition. The shadows started to gain height again and an hour passed without any of us realizing.

Announcing that I was hungry, the Collector received a call from Blackbeard. He was around he said. So three of us decided to go eat at a Tibetan restaurant before we made our way back to the tea vendor and I felt completely transported to a different place altogether as I entered, this too was something I hadn’t seen while living and breathing here for so long. Unfortunately they were out of any and all rice dishes, so we went to another Tibetan place and ate there; engrossed in different conversations and all so trivial.

I haven’t quite introduced you to my friend, Collector or the one that I met. Collector is a friend I came to know when we wanted to begin a new tide in Kashmiri narratives/ art/ poetry while also dispelling the harmfully trending Instagram writing and much like him; Faiz was a part of it too. It didn’t quite start; instead we were pulled into the same thing we were fighting against and all of us hit lowest of the low in our lives.

We made it back to the place we started from and there were a bunch of us, each sipping on a glass cup of hot Lipton tea. Blackbeard looked miserable and later I came to know that he’d been having consistent nightmares. He hasn’t been to college either and I never asked him why, even though he promises to make it when he can. He is growing immensely old everyday, his lips conceal the sadness he never speaks of to me and the Collector kept finishing cigarette after cigarette meanwhile. As I looked around the others, a little hopelesss, Blackbeard included, I was the only non-smoker.

It’s too hard for me to remember conversations or what we talked about, it must have been something about books and writing, or just something out of our raggedly disturbed lives. For what it’s worth, the only thing I remember clearly is that the bund side is being monitored under section 144, in which groups of more than three people could be apprehended. Collector says “if it comes to that I don’t know any of you and you guys don’t know me.” “That’s fair.” I reply.

In hindsight, Faiz seemed a little out of place in the end and I couldn’t really place a finger on it. His head is thick with hair and his beard is dark, his glasses are messy and his bag is full of books. I have known him for several years and hardly have I ever had the chance to describe him, but now that the opportunity has presented itself I can’t help but think of him as another jilted lover. I guess he felt out of place, or something.

Across the other side from where we sat, a bell tolled. It came from the convent school that stood in our line of sight, across the Jhelum, the water is rust colored and spoiled, and the bell tolled on various times only to conclude that it was the time of Muslim prayers. It packed the air with echoes and raised alarms in my head. I recite Agha Shahid Ali’s couplets into the thin air but no one heard me saying them:

“In the heart’s veined temple, all statues have been smashed,

No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.

The hunt is over, and I hear the call to prayer

Fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.”

“I can’t roam around without a book in my bag.” Faiz said. Collector seemed to take everything to heart; for once I suppose he was happy too. “There are so many people out there with the same stories as us.” He chided in, and we all looked within ourselves and wondered what went south. Later Faiz and I left together. It was around five in the evening and I am always on edge at this time because it gets really late if I leave after. On our way, we passed a group of mute people talking in sign language and my reaction to them was to be one of them. To me it was poetic to live in a world of absolute silence, where raising your voice would fizzle out and become a joke in its own. I left him at the same bridge; I’m realizing now that we haven’t really ever had serious discussions or ever really inclined to tell anything about our lives to each other. It’s like you know a person in a certain ensemble and as he changes colors, you’re chasing their shadows.

For the rest of the road I was on my own, it didn’t feel lonely and it was serene like that. The wind did not die down, the sun wasn’t too hot and it was in my hair, and in my heart that I could feel the need of walking along with the one I love. There was nothing soliciting or lonesome about this moment and walking as I went, the houseboats docked on the banks shined in their old ways, people walked carelessly. All of them oblivious, all of them ignorant and all of them brimming with sadness. A song in the background, rustled through the trees and fiercely formed tiny waves, all this canvassed to form in me a certain sense of repose that I may or may not ever be able to desrcibe at length.

“Everything about the bund is replete with poetry and beauty.” I call her and tell her. I walk along to her silence and mine included.

Stockpile of Sadness: A Review of Pain(t) by Haiqa Nowsheen

Ubair Fayaz Fazili, a debutante in the field of poetry hails from a remote village of Kashmir, that naturally calls for peace and serenity in his words. Yet he is too busy fighting his battles with the idea of death, of pain and suffering. Fazili, is not only a poet but a painter who carries art into the field of poetry with his camouflaged metaphors. Words, like color splashes in abstract painting ignite the pyre of ones dreams and make the reader mourn along the speaker.

The poems are immersed in the idea of death and cast an image of a leaf that has been discolored because of all the grief and has the urge to fall off the tree of life. Death in these poems have been awarded a more realistic picture where the speaker pines for death in all the seasons. Even in spring when the rest of the world is welcoming new life, the speaker seems more obsessed with death than life and is seen waiting for death in utmost civility. The speaker gives some daunting images of detaching of umbilical chord and choking of throat which runs a shiver down the spine of the reader. The poet embellishes and glamorize death and one has the urge to dive into the chariot of death.

Pain forms another underlying theme of this collection and the speaker seems to beautify pain in a way that one forgets it is the pain he is talking about. Pain can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual and he seems to be touching all of these in his collection. He talks about the pain of suffering, pain of hopelessness and pain of unrequited dreams. He reflects the condition of a modern man who allows everything to seep into him and effect him. It seems like an amphitheater of agony with each word dripping out the blood of soreness and desolation.

The under-arching dreams of an over-aspiring dreamer is reflected in the poems. It reflects the story of a person who who lies on a dwindling path and is caught between ambition and lack of opportunities. It stands for every Kashmiri boy caught up in concertina wires of conflict and bloodshed. It stands for every young boy aspiring to attain greatness and to every debutante trying to carve a niche in the field of poetry. But in all this a sense of hopelessness dominates the desires to accomplish.

Hopelessness is reflected by the way the speaker shuts down all the rays of hope, or watches his dreams burn while asking the readers to pray silently. Hopelessness pervades the poems and one yearns for a single ray of light on a gloomy journey of this book. A tinge of hope arises in the form of poem titled ” Dawn calls for hope” by saying, “what shall hold us together if not hope?”

Love forms another beautiful part of the collection and acts as a relief to the otherwise funereal atmosphere of the book. Love acts as estrogen to the fissures caused by the poet with his gloom. There is always some madness in love and he reflects it by being in love with winds that swings the heart to the beloved. But the poet does not give much space to the idea of love and takes us back to the graveyard of despair.

Being from a conflict zone himself the words come straight from the horses mouth and it is quite evident how he has been affected by conflict. His words are allusive to the bloodshed and horrors of conflict. The use of words like concertina wires, war bankers, air strikes, emergency panic and unrest are testimony to the fact.

Ubair Fayaz Fazili’s Pain(t) is replete with the same ideas of death and pain and all sixty five poems seem to be pronouncing the same idea. The entire book seems like an epigraph to his last poem in titled pain(t) itself. The speaker talks of his father who is a permanent resident of pain and whom the speaker has seen in pain all his life. He sees hopelessness in him. Hopelessness to stay alive. “Better death then constants suffering” is what the father replies and it is this hopelessness, this urge to meet death that is seen reiterating in the entire book.