-Christmas Day, 2021 i. One morning, during the plague that followed the fires that scarred the capital, you were feeding our pet rat, when word came from the town cryer: The farmers have circled the city. ii. A year and many deaths later, the king and his first minister finally concede. It will take another long year to pry open the jails, but when spring arrives that March, Shaheen Bagh is back in bloom. iii. ‘The change’ comes fast when it comes: the police and army trade their lathis and guns for the tools they need to build homes and hospitals. On every corner, libraries sprout, like winter wheat planted over obsolete borders.
-Lodhi Garden, December, 2021 I was reading that story by Manto about two old friends, now soldiers, fighting each other in Kashmir, and I was thinking about how the distance between us has grown, but also how we sat on that bench today in the smoky, fading sun– we were talking about fascim and our fathers, but really about ourselves– and how you said, It’s tough because we all know there’s only one way any of our stories ever end. I forgot to ask you about the last time we saw Mangalesh Dabral, or what you think about Varavara Rao. You told me you believe in what you’ve written, and anyway, most of the time they don’t actually put poets in jail. But sometimes they do, and my friend if they do, we will stand by you, I promise we will.
-for Sabbah Haji When I heard the Kashmiri educator had been jailed for calling a general a ‘war criminal’, a serious question came to my mind: How often does anyone in any large country rise to the level of general without running afoul at least once of some part of Article 8 of the UN’s ‘Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court’? And forgetting generals, how 0ften does anyone become even a DCP in any police force anywhere without condoning or ignoring ‘torture or inhuman treatment’ (to say nothing of encounters, which might be classified as acts of ‘willful killing’)? Just as some countries are kingdoms dressed up as republics, this is an appeal, disguised as a poem.
Omicron’s arrived, be it mild or strong– Delhi smells of smoke; Amit Shah’s an animal. Still, let’s celebrate– Sudha Bharadwa: out of jail; the farmers have proven when we unite, we do not fail.
These days on the metro, I keep seeing this pair: the old guy with his thick white beard, and his orange-robed friend— the one who’s always smiling. They’re building homes and universities; handing out jobs and free vaccines. I feel dizzy sometimes, thinking about the possibilities: a superhighway to Lanka; my very own flying chariot.