An alley of downtown: long but not so long, knotted, wearing light brown rusty caps, exhaling cool shadows, history reclining and sighing, future floating, living history staring and smoking out of historic houses with windows of cold archives in attics-staring down at alley and alleys.
It plays with kids, winks at youth, makes old nostalgic, rattles unfettering power, tickles past, and unfolds future.
It does something to everyone.
It mourns, cries, sobs and walks with spirals of looms of shining barbed wire and jackboots that stifle its breath. It laughs while looking at the mirror of past and future. It dances on Fridays, on any happening in any other part of its body not matter how far! It dances with life and death. It laughs at the laughs of oppressors, joys at their sorrows, dashes their evolving tactics. She has a stone in hand knowing why and she wears cold cliff of metallic barbed wire as bangles.
Like a far away carpet beating, from interminable intermittent bangs of flash bangs and tear gases, pepper permeated air, to hasty honking of endless traffic to eternally cacophonous old and new market, amidst the dust and stink, beneath orange streaked sky; downtown introduces to its alleys that are like a kids heart palpating in old man’s ribs.
Clear and Misty
Fresh and Stinky
Calming and Painful
Hasty and Unhurried
Cool and Warm
The alleys are interwoven in downtown like arteries and veins, sprouting, swollen, on old city’s dusty parched skin like an old person’s body.
The alleys whose old, wrinkled eyes have grown up seeing the pain in protests, peoples hope floating, death dancing, life fading, history resurrecting, faith ascending, beliefs shattering, brutal occupiers turning the secrets of houses inside out, clattering and swirling of tear gases, zipping bullets, and death wriggling the LIFE out of staring history houses. Their icicles of blood hanging in every season dripping blood on bloating graveyards.
The alleys feel, hear, speak, walk, see and smell.
The alleys smell of overflowed drains to freshly cooked dishes accompanied by whistles of pressure cookers to family conversations, to radio songs, and flipping of TV channels.
The alleys see through shattered windows at battered life. It can see beauty in streaks of roses even in the pigeon-winged sky, seeks clouds of hope in the rain of hopelessness.
The alleys muffle the screams, unfolds rage.
The alleys listen to whispers of war.
The alleys walk every day with resilience, courage and resistance.
The kids chase each other amidst young, old gossiping ladies. And then, there is that old companion to them. It sang to them lullabies, played hide and seek, cricket, every game that I children of conflict play. But sometimes those same kids played a different kind of hide and seek with her and she felt silent –weeping on the banks of cold, blood soaked Jhelum that masquerade its grief in sugar tea colour.
The forts, the Temples, the Shrines, Old historical Mosques, old bridges are all fixed in downtown connecting its alleys like a crown in a rolling decaying skull. There are occupied hotels and cinemas to which neither tourists enter nor any movie features. There are just dark secrets of despising occupier.
The elbows of history rest on alleys while starring on the graffiti’s written on its chest. The eyes of alleys peek through the curtains of graffiti. The alleys sometimes wear loops of new, shining and old barbed wire. These loops are like silent jaws that ground out most of the smiles in childhood to fine dust. The loops tattered many veils of mothers, sisters, lovers, dissenters, and bled every alley. But every loop turns blunt and brown only to be replaced by new and lethal.
The alleys of the downtown act as Chinars. The alleys give a shadow and lessons of history; where sitting on shop fronts under the shadow of elder’s wisdom we learn, unlearn. These classes happen during hartals when the unusual silence sits in downtown. Amidst all these, there are kids playing cricket on street. The street played with the kids and kids played with it. And sometimes street lost some of its constant companions. The black street searched its young, old companions in caged silver moonlight. The alleys are silent suffers as they shouldered every coffin, accompanied every dirge, wrote elegies. And continue.
Till a day comes when these alleys sprout, spill, spread and bloom and fly like a butterfly and rest itself on the shoulders of future generations and whispers in their ears stories unlike stories of children of conflict.
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