MY GRANDMOTHER’S GRAVE

A POEM BY INSHAH MALIK

The author clicked this picture in June 2010, when the Indian army broke the windowpanes of their family house in Srinagar, Kashmir, where her grandmother raised her children. 

 

A frail woman who raised her children,

With the anger of her dispossession

She wore her dress obeying the tradition

And mocking men who failed.

 

She wanted to travel another city

If there wasn’t a mouth she should feed

She lost her husband and dug his grave

She then sang him obituaries

 

She walked in her burke[1] upright

And then when she faced it

She hurled the stones earmarked

She saw her grave, just like me

 

She knew walking over the bridge

Where no woman was allowed

Bringing shame and reprimand

But she braved it all

 

On sunny mornings in Buschpor[2]

When she asked me to open the window

A beam of sun rays touched her feet

She combed her long grey tresses

Singing herself unknown phrases

And then she would be unnerved by it all

 

When I tell her, listen, the time now

It is the same, the same!

She feels the light coming through

Her pain she says is gone

How sad? She doesn’t yield?

 

I tell her this is the same?

Poison in new forms

That kills and maims

And she says did you notice the mole,

On the arse of the Maharaj[3]

That our ancestors had to wash?

Did you see the hands that weaved?

Him glorious shawls?

 

The brazen bruises that decorate

Our faces and backs, and the bony legs?

How do you not see them?

I say but how can you tell?

This isn’t the worse,

She says the worse doesn’t progress

It stands still, while you break

 

Yes, but it is still, so still,

I see your grave and mine,

She says, Ah my grave!! it is so small as if for a child

And yours? It will fit three people like mine

And I say, but granny, I will die so young!

She says if you saw the Maharaj[4] you would not live!

 

I saw Maharaj, and the pain of your bruises, I can feel it

She says may be you do, but you don’t

Trust me, I carry it with me, in my temples

And beams of tears that fills me up

She says you can’t carry it? It sticks

 

I want to say, I’m in more pain

Because I’m aware of your pain

She says burdens of history are smaller

Than the burdens of future

But I think of future too, it is painful

She says why think everything will come without pain?

 

I see, I complain about pain and I mustn’t!

She says make it a gain

I say I’m tired and can’t carry on

She says: Great! Be happy

At least you would be

Three sizes bigger than me

In your grave.

 

 

[1] Burke is a Kashmiri Muslim headgear.

[2] Buschpor is name of an area in upper Srinagar, Kashmir.

[3] Maharaj refers to the Hindu Kings installed in Kashmir by the British during the colonial era. The Dogra rule was characterized by brazen anti-Muslim policies.

 

 

Malise RosbechComment