'Silent River' | A Poem For These Times

Maya Mirchandani's poignant verse explores the everyday fractures caused by prolonged political oppression.

As India celebrates its 73rd Independence Day, Jammu and Kashmir – no longer a state – is in an unprecedented 11th day of a communications blackout. A Central decision to scrape its special status has given rise to heightened military presence in the region. That, coupled with reports of rampant detentions of youth by security forces and widespread anger in the Valley, has enforced the belief among many mainlanders that Jammu and Kashmir’s sufferings are deep. The following poem is a reflection of the relentless anxiety, pain and hardship the region has gone through and continues to, even today.


A mother sings a lullaby.

In the moonlight

stars sparkle

over the Jhelum.

A father walks outside

to lock the gate.

And looks across the bund

on to the silent river,

black as night.

Footsteps in the dark

Stomp, crush

Tar and leaves

Dry as paper.

Where are they headed?

He wonders

and hurries back inside.

The night becomes darker.

Even stars hide

as boots approach.

They march.

Through the town,

Boy soldiers

Toy soldiers.

Wielding guns and grenades


their swagger.

Rap. Tap. Rap. Tap

The teachers house

His father’s house

The doctor’s house

His mother’s house.

His brother’s house

A traitor’s house.

Wind carries over the dark river.

And rustles through

the still of night.

His silent scream

reaches their ears.

Whose side are you on?


The country waits.

Our leader waits.

Blood will flow

on our side and theirs.

The poem first appeared on Maya Mirchandani’s website. Read the original here.