Midnight Conversations: ethnographic poetry from Kashmir
May 19 2021
This poem is 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.
Editor’s note: Due to its spacing, the poem is best viewed on a computer. However, if you are viewing on a phone, please click here.
Midnight Conversations Mother, didn't they visit us When you were feeding me milk Under a blanket of chilly winter. The night dawned upon us Warplane on a cracked mirror The sounds of rifles and army trucks howled_ wild dogs on scary nights. Bullets dangling across our rooftops, And entering through window panes etching the cartographies of occupation across the inner walls of the house. I woke up as the sounds of boots echoed Across the corridors of the house My pants turned into a wetland As the men wearing olive green and camouflage trousers Sent ripples through my body. Captain: “Search the house, don't leave anyone!” Soldiers: “Yes, sir. Take your positions and let us go inside.” Mother slowly put fingers on my mouth and whispered In my ear, “They are coming to burn down our house, burn our wardrobes And seal our bodies with bullets.” She pulled me closer to her chest As it became a battlefield of resistance and occupation I slowly scrolled my twisted fingers across her body Her breathing faint in the shadow of a gun barrel. The suffocation grew faster as the terror of silence was born With gunshots in the air, and bloodstains On our dignity and a backyard Both smelling like burnt clothes and dead bodies. The smell suffocated my little sister And mother, wailing loudly saying “Kunika choo no” Is there anyone who can save us? The sound echoed across the rooms Faded away through the curtains Mother fainted. I'm too old to hear the stories now I remember Friday night when They burned my books Holy Quran, My name is red And some poems I wrote on a crumpled paper. My father’s books Our house into ashes like half-baked burnt bread. And My childhood pictures With father cloaked in gunpowder. I found stains of blood in my drawing room My pencils, letters, teddy bear into ashes. I carry now memories of occupation guns, bullets, boots, Gunshots, rack shack. And my mother’s tears.
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.