Agha Shahid Ali – The Poet Forgotten


I flipped through their visions
Left my number in their sleep
But no one called back
I called all night,
Called for years,
Called till their lids began to ring,
Ten, twenty, two hundred times,
And then they went blind
On my dreams
Now their eyes don’t open
No one picks up the phone

How shall I even begin this, I’m teary, at the same time I’m in awe. As was rightly said by someone (I don’t remember his name) that “Agha Shahid Ali provides an insight into a place he has never been able to experience”. His poetry bleeds for the place that never deserved him. A place which forgot him. Sorry, the place which never tried to know the person who dedicated all his ink to beautify this land with his artistic strokes and heavy emotional verses which still resonate in the morning breeze.

They tap every year on my window,
Their voices hushed to ice.
No, they won’t let me out of winter,
And I’ve promised myself,
Even if I’m the last snowman,
That I’ll ride into the spring
On their melting shoulders.

You can experience the pain behind his verses, they seem to call his home. And here we are celebrating Sheikh Abdullah, Dr. BR Ambedkar. Who was Agha Shahid Ali Khan? A homeless creature? an exiled Shia? A liberal poet? Sorry to say, but being brutally honest, we are worthless creatures. We don’t even have a day in his name, the person in whose name University of Utah awards “Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize” and for us, for the nation he belonged to, he is just somebody that we used to know.

….I’m alone, terribly alone

We have stupid Jammu and Kashsmir bank calenders filled with people whose work isn’t even close to a single word of Shahid Sahab’s poems and tragedy is we have to stare at them for an entire year. Our streets named in the people who did nothing for the nation Shahid Sahab emptied all his inkpots for. Our radios giving airtime to misogynistic people like Zarro, while the melodies of Agha die down till they reach his home only to buried in literature department of Kashmir University. Our television sets flashing propagapeace-lovingwhile peace loving poems of Agha Shahid Sahab are thrown in trash. Our leaders projecting Sheikh Abdullah, Mufti Saed as the messiahs of our land, while forgetting The Shahids and The Mehjoors. It’s unfortunate we don’t even have a street in his name leave alone an airport, a red colored date on jammu and Kashmir bank calendar, a railway station, a chowk.

God’s angels again are-for satan!-forlorn.
Salvation was bought but sin sold in real time.
And who’s the terrorist, who is the victim?
We’ll know if the country is polled in real time

Am I worth uttering your poem? No I’m not. We failed you, not that if you were alive you would have forced us to give you respect, you were never like that. You immortalized Kashmir with your soul-stirring verses. And what do we give you back, a day in the corner of Kashmir university’s dark garrisons which hardly anyone attends, a chapter in 10th standard English book, oh dear Agha, how badly we treated a poet.

Do you remember when they shut down the post offices; you still communicated to your land, yeah your land.

The moon did not become the sun
It just fell on the desert
In great sheets, reams
Of silver handmade by you.
The night is your cottage industry now,
The day is your brisk emporium.
The world is full of paper.
Write to me.

Agha Shahid Ali Khan doesn’t need to be glorified. Wikipedia has glorified him than all of Kashmir ever did. He also introduced Ghazal as a genre in English poetry, and wrote a book “Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English”. His poems have been featured in “American Alphabets: 25 contemporary poets” and much more. I’m not writing all this to show you how great he is, but writing it to show how unfortunate we are. We have forgotten our family member as if he never existed, but he has loyals, he always had. I remember when I joined twitter for the first time and I came across Muhhamad Faysal’s ( A Kashmiri blogger) twitter header image and I was staring at it for a longtime, the header read

We shall meet again in Srinagar,
By the gates of villa of peace
Our hands blossoming into fists,
Till the soldiers return the keys
And disappear…


Yes, he wrote about oppression long before we had even an idea of it. If his poetry was free to sway in Kashmir, believe me time would cease to exist, the chinar would weep, mountains would break, the army which beats us will throw off their guns. His poetry has the power to build bridges, unite people, show us the unseen.

It’s time we glorify our hero, our poet. Let each wall be painted in his verses, let each street of Kashmir lead to his library. It’s time to pay him back, it’s time to read him. Let’s do it. Let’s educate people who he was. Let February 4 be the day he will be reborn in the valley. Let December 8 be the day we pledge to keep his legacy alive. I request, not just the ruling party of J&K, but the mainstream parties and separatist parties of Kashmir, and all the major societies of Kashmir to come forward and lay down a foundation stone to his legacy. Declare 2018 as Agha Shahid Ali Khan Year, build a library in his name, a college, rename a major road in his name, rename Srinagar airport in his name, rename Srinagar railway station to Agha Shahid Ali Railway station. Let his powerful, soul-stirring and heartwarming verses flow in this valley of tears.

The moon touched my shoulder
And I longed for a vanished love….

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