“Country” and “Colonialism”: ethnographic poetry from Kashmir

11 January 2020

Ruhail Andrabi

These poems are set in the context of Kashmir which is a disputed territory occupied by India. The author-poet demonstrates through his ethnographic poetry how normal life looks under the gaze of settler colonial occupation through which the indigenous people are rendered homeless and their identity reduced to the rubble of coloniality. The metaphors in the poems take a reader through the cities of colonialism, occupation and indigeneity.


I’m a Country without a Nation,

a flag without colours,

and people waiting for a ship

of Freedom

that’s fading away in the mist of hopelessness.

I’m a home messed up with

the Memories

of encounters, filled with blood clots between the bricks;

blood-soaked clothes of martyrs hanging around the burned

walls of a house;

small pieces of gun laid on the floor just like

a corpse floating across the endless river; and 

grey hair of Mother scattered in a suffocated room

of Longing.

Since last summer I have been living like

an Eid without the sighting

of crescent caged in the colonialism,

of brutality that sunk its complexion 

beneath the dark clouds.

An evening of separation without sunset drowned

in the nostalgia of bloodshed and betrayal.

A citizen leaving life in exile,

in longing for the passport that would

travel me across the city of Freedom.

I’m mourning the death of a corpse that

is without a Coffin, and a shroud.

For decades I’m living a life of suffering between the

eternities of ink bled through a broken nib.

As I walked through wrinkled pages of history

I have transformed myself into the city of poetry

And through the snowflakes of winter I metamorphosed

Myself into poem!

Every metaphor I bleed,

it demeans your existence.

Till the Jehlum would flow with blood,

my stanzas and I would celebrate the joy of freedom.

Last night I became a grave digger

and acted like river of freedom flowing

through the graveyards as it floats over the

Tombstones and intersects with verses of quran.

I’m a sleepless night,

drenched in sweat as I’m waiting

for the dawn that would carry my

Unfinished letters to a half mother

Who is Longing to see her son

Between the goodbyes!

I’m a memory engraved within the ink of graffiti

that’s fading away in the smoke of bullets.


I’m a message of Love,

waiting inside the typing box 

To be delivered to a country

without a mobile phone.


Colonialism smells!

like the scent of dead bodies,

flies dancing on the blood clots,

blood-soaked clothes drenched in sweat and 


eating the skull of body horrendously.

Colonialism turns

an empty town into a ghost garrison

covered by long Jack boots,

Occupies spaces with the loud howl of rifle


shrinking the balloons of lungs

with Pepar gas, tear gas shells and electric shocks.

People with blue dots, skulls dangling on orchards,

Some living within the graveyards,

some pasted on the walls.

The lanes are, but a river of memories

that carry blood, bones, flesh and departure of a country.

The lanes carry the scent of camphor,

a farewell to a coffin and

trousers filled with stains of gun powder,

the floaters of stone pelters

scattered on roads;

Mothers wailing,

caterwauling barefooted

within dark nights.

A house Looks scary it has

burnt wooden panes,

smelling like burnt rubber,

slowly turning into ashes;

spices, utensils, burned carpets,

a heap of blankets!

All in one row.

Ruhail Andrabi is currently a Junior Research Fellow based in New Delhi. His writings have appeared in Harper Collins India, Blue Lotus magazine, cafe dissensus, Caravan, and Frontier Post. His research focuses on the relationship between resistance and space in colonial and postcolonial societies with a specific focus on identity, citizenship and gender. 

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