By Syed Riza Qadri
But, of course, Kashmir always wakes up as its own self every morning.
I’m in class but I steal two seconds to smuggle a look out the window. I caper through groaning wintery clouds, through the creaks of frosted bones. I blow my breath over the Chinar and marvel at the ripple of its copper leaves. Ever so plenty, ever so beautiful. I smile at red noses and hands rubbed together. I smile at the sweaters, the mufflers, the boots, and the crunch of gravel beneath them. I travel a thousand miles, yet it is always away. The tree with arms of leafless branches that it holds aloft with pride.
It seems to break down, though, before the One. And the arms are up in remembrance.The birds chirp to its murmurs of prayers as it heaves a sigh of cold gusts, and there appear shards of ice, swords of snow, hugging its very form. The tree is a thing of misery and majesty. It is in pain and it is so far away.
But, of course, it will be here tomorrow. And I’ll be, too.
(I came back today, but it was through a different path that I never chose. I saw upturned firepots and admonishing mothers, and then I saw scraps of papers being adorned with colour. Crisp leaves spiralled off the dusky ground to greet me, to meet me. ‘As-salāmu ʿalaykum.’ ‘Wa ʿalaykumu s-salām!” By the time I reached I had wings of dead leaves and a lost heart.
The tree was not a tree anymore. It was nothing. As though it had never prayed, never sighed, never lived. Never bled.)