Kashmir: Seven Poems

These poems depict the life of displaced people (victims of border terrorism), living in a refugee camp in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. They are taken from the poetry collection “Tafteesh Jari Hai” (The Investigation Continues), by Kalpna Singh-Chitnis, published in 1993. These poems have been translated from original Hindi into English by the poet herself.

Dedicated to Agha Shahid Ali


No one knows her here by her name,
the one who is sitting mum
there on a wooden log,

the woman whose son was slaughtered
with a chainsaw,
is the only identity she has
in this refugee camp.


The night they fled,
leaving behind their village, home, hearth
and half-cooked bread on the stove,
who had come to see them
a night before that night?

And why didn't they open their windows
and door, for anyone after that?

Even before they could tell us,
why they had not been able to look
into the eyes of their daughters
ever since then...

a *Chinar falls,
making a creaking sound,
they could never tell us all,
what they really wanted to…!

*Chinar is a type of deciduous tree found in Kashmir, and other Himalayan regions. Its botanical name is Platanus orientalis.


They have in their memories
their home, and the only flower
blooming in their backyard,

and a cot left outside,
soaking in the pouring rain,
the night they fled.

They have in their memories,
their dialogues, laughters,
and sweet sun,

and everything else,
they could not bring along,
with themselves,

and their little ones,
who did not return home,
after they went to play,

soon after the day,
when snow in the valley
had melted away!


They set off explosives in their roots,
and separated them from their lands,

I wonder, what did they whisper in their ears,
and separated them from their lands?

The snow storms hit the valley, striking Chinars,
where would the fallen Chinars go now?

They will dry up, and set ablaze,
we all know that,

we all know, that their ashes
would still like to return

but to their valleys only.


A little girl
playing outside her tent,
did not come to us,
though we invited her a million times.

She darted back into her tent,
and stood by the door,
holding the ropes tight
on both sides,

it is as if,
she wouldn't allow anyone
inside her home

the faces she does not recognize,
those strangers
can not trample
her new home!


Those who met us there
with their open heart,

seemed to have conquered
all the fears,

tough like the mighty pines
and soft like the walnuts in their shell,

those men!


The bride has come home
from one tent to another,
walking only a few steps,

Those who didn't know each other
until yesterday,
sang together, the wedding songs,
for a little while they forgot
all about the sounds of
the falling rocks,

night of the bride,
like the saffron
simmering in their teapot.