Chimera. The word that often comes to my mind when I think of Agah Shahid Ali. I wonder what was the last word that made it to Shahid’s heart.
Once you have read Shahid his words distinguishably remain inside you. He dissolves into the beats of your heart and simultaneously you feel tremors and music. The words don’t change your identity but they mould the way you exist.
I met Shahid for the first time in my school text book. The way he entered into my heart, I knew I would become a chimera – alongside mine I would be carrying DNA of Shahid’s love and nostalgia. Shahid’s words became a mirror for my emotions, a home within a hope and a place where my poems found an altar.
Whether it’s the displacement of one’s heart or land, nostalgia is something that becomes a life saving device when reality seems to be on death’s edge. Today is Shahid’s death anniversary. In Mexico the day of the dead – “dia de muertos” – is celebrated to remember the ancestors and celebrate their life.
So today I just want to remember Shahid to celebrate his life, to stand in awe of the way in which through his words he drew maps of the hearts of the people of Kashmir and to offer reverence to the bravery of his heart and the brilliance of his mind that have influenced people world wide.
My heart holds The Veiled Suite and I browse through Shahid’s gallery of memories. The Country Without A Post Office is now more disconnected and out of reach than ever. Politics is the veil that stands between home and hope. We have covered whole cemeteries under the pashmina of forgiveness. Jhelum rises in a flood of rage. Too many tears have been shed. It can’t bear their weight. The roses in the valley bloom in black. For how much longer will we have to mourn for peace in our homeland? The snow covered peaks of the Himalayas feel warmer than the name of our beloved as it rests on our lips. The stars are veiled by clouds of sufferings. We are tired of finding ways to wish for happiness, a feeling so alien that an accidental smile in our heart unsettles our souls.Shahid I wonder if you could come up with a single word to sum it all up.
History, politics, geography – what is our definition being reduced to?. Our identity isn’t what you see on a map. Love isn’t just the shape of our hearts. It is a memory that we cling to so that we can time travel. Love is something that alters more than just our DNA. Shahid, to me you are a part of the love that I feel. Or maybe that love is a part of you Shahid, that seeped into me through your words.