August 6, 2019
When the sky appeared to be sagging and the sun beat upon sentry lined roads, so ominously, that you feel the weather is going to retch anytime soon. We held on to our radio sets shifting the dial from medium wave to short wave. The local medium-wave would almost sound like the oppressor’s burlesque.
I found a haven in Mahmoud Darwish’s writing. The subtitle of the book I was reading is ‘Beirut, August 1982’. The similarity of the text with our contemporary reality was so uncanny. It could conveniently pass off as a chronicle of our collective ordeals. In a state of half daze and half panic, I checked the cover of the book again to see if it read ‘Kashmir, August 2019’ instead.
Just a few pages into the book, the author talked of the effort to maintain the primacy of the quotidian becoming a challenge to the tyrant. The line that particularly resonated with me was ‘Sheer survival during a blitz assumes heroic proportions’. In the subsequent days, I (tenuously) held on to it for strength, the little things that give us solace!
I had to wrestle with my forebodings constantly. With deadly lukewarm voices in static speaking of the siege, rarely speaking or not speaking at all, and not a word allowed to cross the Pir Panjal, were they trying to ensure a collective amnesia about us? What if the erasure of the Article was just a Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass — that would herald a genocide? Would there ever be an Al-Ma’araka for us to substantiate our sufferings? All we had were questions.
Marcel Khalife defiantly sings Darwish in the background: ‘Let the Seige Come, my body is a wall’. I wonder had Khalil Hawi, the Lebanese poet, listened to it, would that have forestalled his death?
‘My body is a wall,’ Darwish says the tumbling of walls is news enough.
People say we will survive the siege. Nietzsche says, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Indeed, the blitz did not kill me personally. However, I cannot affirm that it made me stronger either. What does not kill you does not necessarily make you stronger. Sometimes it maims you and cripples you and at the same time consumes your being.
But we will never forget. Even the attempts at forgetfulness to purge our violent emotions are stricken with memory. Our collective memories will shake every atom in the cosmos until tyranny meets its doom. InShaAllah. We will resist ’till the soldiers return the keys and disappear.’ Until Ka’bah is freed of false Gods. Until we Exist.
Naureen Bhat is an undergraduate student at SKUAST. She hails from Sopore.