“An Indian Tourist’s Map of Kashmir

You board a plane from Delhi metropolis
To Srinagar─ an itinerary directs you;
Nedose hotel is your destination in Gulmarg
And Alkan tourist houseboat at Dal.
As you cross the Himalayan range
Eternity breaks down in your hands;
The air hostess announces in desi English
“The photography is banned at Srinagar airport.”
You never ask why? You too agree
It must be a matter of national security.
As you land, you feel excited and shocked─
If there is heaven on earth, it is this, it is this.
These words involuntarily escape your lips;
You move out of the dock, a Kashmiri driver
greets you wearing a pheran, skull cap,
A long-nose exactly fits the description.
Only that you find his beard overgrown-
As he drives you to your location, you pass
Through gigantic bunkers and drowsy soldiers
Your own people handover you a smile;
You thank stars that you are safe after all;
Graffiti on the walls and slogans on the streets
Announce so loud, “Go back. You’re undesirable”
It boils your blood; the image fits the description.

You are safe at your location- Nedose in Gulmarg,
The abode of flowers and trees; suddenly you draw
Parallels ─ Delhi’s scorching heat and Kashmir
You say it is really a heaven, the TV was not wrong;
You are quick to acknowledge and realize
How important this is to your country’s map;
Meanwhile, our weatherman predicts snow
He never fails us unlike God and the state;
Your Kashmir is ready like a pizza delivered
While an encounter breaks out in Shopian;
“Stay indoors… Don’t trust the people.”
Your family drops you a text message;
The driver assures you of safety and hospitality
It was his brother killed in the fight;
You are back to your country and you tell
Everyone how hospitable Kashmiris are;
You don’t mention graffiti, road signs
And the urinals writ with our wishes;
Kashmir becomes your imagined heaven.”

©Ashaq Hussain Parray