One Must Sing Before Tongues Are Tied: A Poet On Art And Survival In Kashmir Post Article 370

Urvashi Bahuguna: In her poem “Lightness of Being in a Heavily Militarised Zone”, whose title is inspired by Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, Kashmiri poet, filmmaker and academic Asiya Zahoor writes:

“before they lay barbed wire
across our tongues
let’s sing of almond blossoms”

More than a month after the abrupt abrogation of Article 370 and the plunging of Kashmir into a state of lockdown, without internet connectivity or functioning telephone lines, Zahoor’s writing is instructive and perceptive, tackling the history and landscape of a place that has known devastating strife for decades. There is an urgency in Zahoor’s poems that feels particularly pertinent at this moment in history – time and freedom are both running out.

Born and raised in Baramulla, in the west of Kashmir, where she currently teaches, Zahoor’s newly published book of poems, Serpents Under My Veil, opens with “Medusa In A Burkha”, a radical reimagining of the Greek myth that perceived a certain kind of woman as dangerous.

The burkha-wearing Medusa is a threat twice over – she is both a woman and part of a religious minority that is often at the receiving end of suspicion and bigotry. Dreams, reimaginings, and personifications recur in Zahoor’s poems. More here.

Leave a Reply