‘The bridge was burning along with its history’

Adarsh Ajit
Agnishekhar is fettered within the four walls of ‘Kashmir 1990, the pain of exile and incurable nostalgia’. Immersing the ashes of the dead in one’s own stream in Kashmir is not less than winning a war for him. He fears that the jaws of fundamentalism will devour his ancestral village but is also confident that nobody can expropriate him from that village. He writes the pain of mothers in a universal mould. The mothers are waiting for their children who have gone across the border for undergoing arms and ammunition training. The mothers in exile are fading on seeing their weak and starving progeny. The eyes of the mothers of the soldiers fighting for the country are gazing at the TV sets to hear about the welfare of their sons. The poem yeh jeevan hamaara is a blow to the perpetrators of terrorism who hounded out Pandits and destroyed Kashmir. He contemptuously asks them to laugh on their plans aiming at dislodging the community. Out of anger, he asks them to chuckle on the ceasing mother-tongue of the Kashmiri Pandit children and youth, living away from Kashmir that was once called the paradise. Putting the culprits to shame, the poet asks them to laugh on the condition of the exiles and on the grown weeds on the broken windows of their homes in Kashmir. He creates a woman who is in a lunatic asylum. Her attire, her physique, her nods are self-explanatory and need not to explain:
uski baddi baddi/chamakti aankhuun ke neeche/kale gadduun main kuchh daffan tha/paas hi kuchh dhabbe the/jo shaayad aansuwun ka namak tha (Something was buried in the dark depressions of her big shiny eyes. Nearby were the marks, probably, the salt of tears).
The title poem, jalta hua pul, is the representative poem of exile with multi-dimensional stretch. They burn the ancient bridge across that side of the tunnel. The crumbling bridge witnesses the helplessness of the stream that is flowing civilisation. It is the end of age-old and monumental Kashmir ethos. The flames rise to the skies for registering protest but are unheard. The sharp axe falls on the civilizational affluence:
pul jal raha tha/apne itihaas ke saath/ jiske saath chidd thi unhain/ jise badalnaa chah rahe the vay (The bridge was burning along with its history. Irritated by it they wanted to change it).
Along with the logo of co-existence, Agnishekhar symbolizes the representational times with the passing generations. The poet and two Muslim girls share the breast-milk of his mother. He takes us in the era of Nund Reshi and Lal Ded. He remembers his mother saying that milk is milk only and it does not know the barriers of caste, creed, sex and religion:
ateet aur vardamaan ke beech/lagataar crossfiring main/ ghar main jihaadiyuun ke gusne/aur surakhsha ki gheraabandhi ke beech/unhain bachaayega meri maan ka doodh (In the continued cross firing of the past and the present, between the intrusion of jihadis in the homes and the encompassment of the security forces they will be saved by the milk of my mother).
Agnishekhar’s routes leading to his home are blocked. He advocates the change of the courses. In unison with his political fight, he wants settlement where no one can dislodge him repeatedly. He asks why the generations will remain orphaned in other states. Dismantled brick by brick he wants to reconstruct it. His impinged land has countless memories in its every fold. The air of the fields is full of songs. Every alcove is waiting for the return of their aborigines:
lautne ke liye hota hai ghar/ koyi kyon kare baar baar hamain beghar…..hamaare hain ghar/bhale hi daha diye gaye hon/eint eint jod lenge jaakar (The home is meant for return. Why someone will make us homeless repeatedly?…..They are our homes. We will reconstruct them brick by brick even if they have erased those to ground).
The poet feels very tired in making the Islamic fundamentalists and militants understand the results of the fire of jihad that smashed everything. The poet reminds these elements that this fire has not only burnt the shrine of Nund Rishi to ashes but also the milk of Lal Ded. He moans and wants his painful cries to reach to the soul of Lal Ded:
aaj fir/ek baar pila de apna doodh/vay pee rahain hain khoon/aur ham/khoon ke aansoo (Give us your milk once again. They are drinking the blood and we, the tears).
The poet scratches the incurable wounds of Wandhama and Nadimarg. Narrative poems of the execution of Sarvanand Koul Premi and seventeen-year-old Mukhtar Sheikh makes the anthology balanced. Agnishekhar highlights the carnage and the atrocities committed on the Hindus and on the innocent Muslims cutting across the borders. A good number of poems seem a shift from his previous set-up. This scribe finds his kaal vriksh ki chaaya main still at top among his poetic works. Thirty years down the line the repetitive exiled lexicon sometimes looks monotonous. However, yes, nostalgia is incurable. One who forgets 19th January 1990, the cruel night that snatched the land of birth, crematoriums, and the richness of socio-cultural ethos of a proud community is as good as dead. That night was the end of love and life:
yeh thi itihaas ke ant ki raat/yeh thi vichaar ke ant ki raat/yeh thi sauhard ke ant ki raat (It was the end of history, thought and co-existence).
Agnishekhar has access to his contemporaries living outside Jammu and Kashmir. He sends chilling messages to his literary connections. He compares Kashmir with the locations of his literary friends. He aspires a little peace, courage and sight of the mountains of other places in lieu of the memories and music of the valley. After viewing Kashmir his contemporary residing in Rajasthan prefers the deserts to the valley:
mere Rajasthan ki rait/ tumhare swarg se mahaan hai, bhai (Brother, my sand of Rajasthan is better than your paradise.)
There is a series of seven poems relating to different personalities under the caption meri dairy main. The poet has put autobiographical/biographical/ historical/circumstantial/narrative sketches in his poetic outflow like the incidents of the killing of the children in Peshawar, Pakistan otherwise Agnishekhar is lost in every mote of Kashmir. He wants to get dissolved like salt in the silence of his beloved river where he goes to release his books by throwing them down the bridge. In the maddening love for his lost home, he visualises it even in the air. The last poem divulges today’s societal status where man is killed like a worm from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on one pretext or the other, without any reason. There could have been no better conclusion of the book:
jaganya hai aisa samai/jismain loguun ko keede makaude ki tarah/maar daala jaaye/kashmeer se kanyakumari tak/ bahaana kuchh bhi ho/ chaahe afwah ho jhoot ho (The people are killed like the worms from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on rumours or lies, on one pretext or the other. What a heinous society!).
The book is dedicated to poet and painter Vaishnavi Rao. In his adorning foreword, Leeladhar Jagoodi remarks that the book not only represents the present circumstantial arena but also covers the vast cliffs and ravines of history. The cover-page is composed of Vir Munshi’s oil painting. It simply enhances the value of the words.