Driving without a lasan in Kashmir

Ather Zia

the law has much blood on its talons. it’s especially ethical if you don’t have a lasan. between background checks and grease-money, the lasan, leaking from the law’s stained teeth, is what you need, get it maybe never.

anyways, it’s a contrivance, a measure of know-how over a vehicle to transport people in metal boxes when you already carry them in your heart, like your boy who died of a bullet that grazed your chest and entered his.

in Kashmir when you drive without a lasan you drive on the right side of life.

i sleep to dreams of being a young, irascible driver from Maisuma, the invincible artery, throwing stones at paramilitary his happiest past-time (being with a Neruda or a Said is not always the best you can dream), fed on a staple

diet of an adoring mother’s curses. I am terribly in love and sore from heartache – without a lasan but that is my last worry – probably till I have no money to bribe policemen who catch me every time I stop like a stone unwarranted

outside my beloved’s house, not that she cares. i drive singing to old Bollywood songs and cursing India in the same breath. Wishing every bunker melting away like i believe, without license.

Ather Zia, 2013

Ather Zia, Ph.D., is a political anthropologist, poet, short fiction writer, and a columnist. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. Ather is the author of Resisting Disappearances: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir (June 2019) and co-editor of Can You Hear Kashmiri Women Speak (Women Unlimited, 2020), Resisting Occupation in Kashmir (Upenn, 2018) and A Desolation called Peace (Harper Collins, May 2019). She has published a poetry collection “The Frame” (1999) and another collection is forthcoming. Ather’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region.

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