Midnight Conversations: ethnographic poetry from Kashmir

May 19 2021

Ruhail Andrabi

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
 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. 
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.

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