It’s autumn in Kashmir (Cashmère). A silent peace prevails. Soft light greets birds that had long before gone into hiding. The sun is not blazing because the clouds have encompassed it. A carpet of gold leaves is scattered all over the ground. Dusky meadows, once bright and green, speak serenity now. Sparkling waters of rivers and streams pass, cowering, into a much deeper solitude. Trees stand like naked infidels of a cruel kingdom. No more chirping of birds. No more singing of nightingales, for their voices have been caged.
As the saffron sun rises from the colossal mountains, the light begins to scatter in every direction, to vanish the darkness, and create its own throne of shining reflections. The light first falls on the vertiginous mountains, and then hills. Their stony layers shine in light, and their naked appearances become garmented in this light, a gurment upon which they bury deep secrets. The snow clad mountains, look like newly-wed girl, ornamented with glittering jewellery—the ice. Calm and beautiful. But when the light reaches the deep, silent forests, it loses its way! There, in those deep alleys, marked with footprints of unknown travellers, solitude emerges.
Everything has changed. The jewels of autumn ‘chinars’ offer a resplendent view. They look crucified, as if burning in the fire of autumn. Their crimson leaves are scattered below their stripped bodies, trampled on by passers-by, who only ignore the aura of their surroundings. With every step a trampled leaf sighs death. Human ears remain unaccustomed to those sounds.
There is a majestic view in those Mughal gardens, held within the belly of high mountains. Children can be seen playing cricket under the shade of autumn trees. It evokes a feeling that one can’t resist without saying “Wow”.
With the onset of autumn, the work in the orchards and fields has begun. People leave their homes, early in the morning, with baskets and ploughs on their shoulders. They walk like a caravan. They also carry a ‘samovar’, brewing ‘nun chai’ in it, for it kills bitterness and tiredness after a hard day of apple picking. Though it may be a tough job, the people enjoy it too, for it has blissful memories associated with it. Not only men but women too pluck leafy petals from saffron fields in their wrinkled hands. It’s wonderful to see a whole family working on either side of the filed, and children along with their neighbourhood friends play cricket nearby, even if it is with a broken bat. They play hide and seek behind the trunks of apple trees. Childhood is mesmerising in autumn.
Autumn, once a tyrant, is now a bridge, a reunion for lovers. Chinar trees are a shelter for wandering souls. Within those chinar trees, sunlight illuminates mystic souls, sitting underneath the branched, barefoot. Their shoulders meet each other. The soft sun first falls on their realm, and then on the leaves’ shining, rotted veins. Their shadows behind them linger. They seem to be enjoying the company of love that autumn has offered them from the sweet cups of its blazing palace.
When they speak, their faces turn, meet each other, and then separate. They pass smiles, fragrances, and wordless letters which invisible winds carry to their hearts, and then to their souls, for its bounty is rich. Their minds leap in unison, talking of their separation days tormented by the wounds of love. But after much suffering, autumn has united them in the auspicious shrine of love. When they look at each other, their eyes invoke a fire, and then, from this runs a river of sorrow, coursing down their drenched cheeks.
After much hopelessness, they fill each other once again with scents of hope, and promise each other of meeting again.
“Will we meet again from this day onwards?” She asks with a sigh.
“Yes,” he says, continuing, “we will again meet in some blissful autumn, under some shade, in the shrine of love where we would be devotees of an unknown saint.”
Then they depart, leaving only murmurs of their fallen conversation behind, disappearing into the foggy mist of autumn. And the sun dies under their trampling feet.