‘These days tears have a religion.’

Adarsh Ajit
Indu Kilam’s anthology of poems New Gods is structured on the foundation of relationship, sour or sweet, existential or creative. In ‘The Guest’, a person visits his homeland after a long time. The valley instead of love, relationship, and piousness is spread over with uniformed men. There is no life, no youth, no wanton birds, no greenery, no chirping of birds, no joyous songs, no dancing daffodils, no mighty chinar and no bleating of the animals. There are new names, new faces, new roads, new walls and new gods. There is complete death-like spell. Wailing cries of mothers’ echo. Some dig the graves. Some watch the burning pyres. In this side of the tunnel, the young ones, who were just infants at the time of forced exodus, are unaware about their colossal loss as they are busy in their struggle of survival. And the biggest blow is that the KPs are labelled as ‘migrants’ in their own country. The poet lives a frozen existence. The arms of the clock are frozen, the bond is frozen and the turbulent valley is cold. The exiled life is a frozen one. March haunts. It reminds one of rootlessness. The poet is in an alien land. She has no answers to many questions. Her 6000 year-old historical richness does not satisfy the aliens:
What is your mother-tongue? /What do you eat? /What is your address? /I want to answer/I have books of my 6000-year old history/ But alas! I fumble.
The anthology is full of similes, metaphors, comparisons, contrasts, and vacillations as well. Money matters do not influence the poet. She mocks those who are materialistically rich but are aesthetically and emotionally poor. Her room full of colourful pictures, letters, red roses, and book of verses is better than the rooms full of gold. She is pained on watching the common people being exploited in the name of caste, creed and religion. Morality looks like a fish market. Even the tears are sold:
The wise traders offer rich gifts/These days tears have a religion.
Untimely withering of chinar symbolises the abrupt breakdown of Kashmir ethos. The leaves of chinar shame its roots taking us to the past with respect to present day Kashmir. Circumstantial eddy entangles Indu. Failures haunt. Nostalgia is at its peak. We are reminded of harisa, black beans, fish, lotus-stem, dried fish, kehwa. The poet sees through the broken window and visualises a young girl. Roses are strewn in her way. A naughty tomboy is holding a hockey stick. However, the windowpane breaks with wind. She finds a middle-aged woman in hostile conditions with scorpions and serpents everywhere. She burns the window. However, the strokes of the time don’t lower her strength to fly in the skies:
Let them pull my strings. /Like the old stone-wall /I resist typhoons and changing weathers.
People die but none is dying for a cause. Indu Kilam offers her life for bringing peace. She wants to erase the walls between man and man, community and community, country and country. Amidst the gunshots and stressful borders, she aspires for universal goodwill:
What if the borders fall in love / unmindful of the watching hawks/listening to chaste poetry/….embracing embraces/and hating hatred.
Fusing tragedies with creativity shows the literary acumen of the poet. The poem Hope displays existential accomplishments. An old man watches a tree/plant to grow. The tree blooms. Blossoms change into fruits. Old eyes are soothed. The autumn turns the leaves red. Wrinkles are darkened. But life does not cease. The hope of another harvest keeps all alive:
Then a day comes /when it is plucked /and branches left unadorned. /He looks at the bare tree /with new hope and a smile /for the coming spring.
Comparing the mind with the heart, she gives full marks to heart that is not a slave of rules and is full of love whereas the reason rests in the mind. The mind banishes into the wilderness. In The Truth the poet finds death valuable than life. There are no borders, no hypocrisy, no bullets, no lectures, no dictates, no religion, no riches, no poverty, no ego, and no barrier of age:
O, death, come soon/you are life. /O, life, please go/you are death.
Knots is a poem in which mother combs her child’s hair making them beautiful. But by observing the hair-knots the mother fears that her child may feel difficulty in tackling in-laws. Some poems of Indu are autobiographical in nature. There is an attractive girl among the sturdy boys. The watch ticks. She is in shorts and white shirt. Time ticks again. She sees a boy. But this time his looks are different. She becomes conscious of the absence of veil she never wore. She attains adulthood. She is lost in the world of feminity. Sometimes she questions her body how it can manage the load. Sometimes everything looks fake to her. Sometimes she pleads the life to stay a while. She has also the power to defy age. There is a burning furnace in her. She asks to stay away and watch from afar. Many a times she compares herself with the ocean with no ends, no beginning, and no shores holding the secrets of love, desires, fear of death etc. At other place, she says ocean is also incomplete hiding the pain having dead carcasses, tears, wounds, dead dreams etc:
The secrets lie within me/Yet I am helpless/Yet I am incomplete.
Indu symbolises the potter with God and complains why He has made her incomplete. The heart of the potter breaks on seeing the strong gust breaking the lamp. Nevertheless, he continues to knead and pound the dust. The poet has complaints against the creator. She questions why he is bathed with milk and rose water while the poor track miles for a drop to drink. There are many who have no piece of even stale bread while as hundred dishes are offered to him. Indu is woman centric. She reflects the life of a woman, questions Neelkantha, and alleges that she drinks the poison daily and quietly:
O, brave one riding…..live our life only for a day /and see what the sins/YOU commit.
House is an example of beautiful display of words with scars within. A couple is weeping. They are gazing the house that they once thought would be home. They take extra care in the construction of his son’s room. However, black thunder bursts on them when they receive the phone. Now they are searching for a tenant. The words are still booming in their ears:
‘WE won’t come /here is paradise /children are happy/the wife feels freedom/sell it or rent it out’
Indu has bag of romantic terminology. She gazes skies. She has stories of love in her heart, though mostly broken. She immortalises love by making a woman dressed in white and kissing her beloved on the pyre. She romances with sun, moon, flowers, waters, songs:
The sun teases moon/She blushes deep red/ The tides of the sea rise/ to her shame.