There is a holy hush And stillness at sunrise On Dal lake And at this time of the year A sharp sting of cold at dawn. As the sun emerges A million shimmering leaves Of soft-gold, red and mauve Set the valley ablaze.Here, I have heard countless stories Moody young men reciting their love poems Farouche maidens nursing secrets And old men still praying for miracles. They all come here, young and old Muslim, Hindu and Sikh. I embrace them all. They are part of me And I am part of them.Tulips and daffodils Have given their beauty to this fragrant land Poets have extolled its beauty Rulers have fallen in love with it The Mughal Emperor Exclaimed “If there is paradise on earth It is here, it is here, it is here.” Now melancholy hangs over everything.Something has changed. I hear guns and explosions Screams in the night Desperate women crying And blinded young men Sobbing in helplessness and anger.There is talk of total war With total weapons. It is a madness that has settled Over this land.Gory and bloody stories are heard That are not worthy Of the great faiths of this region.The liberals, The pride of the land, Look the other way Or find it easier To cheer on the violent hatred. They are setting aside Millennia of wisdom, What is unique to them, For what is base and ugly.The righteous voices of Ahimsa and Gandhi Are drowned In the din.The UN, the Ummah, The champions of humanity, It seems no one Really cares for suffering Or justice.But here I stand. I am the tree of life And life is in me. One thing I know, And that is the one thing I need to know, I will be standing here Long after the intruders have gone.At dusk As the world falls into a hush I hear the call to prayer Floating like a feather Gently over the lakeAs it fades In the distance I hear, Carried over the water, The liquescent voice of a maiden Softly singing the sad song of a son-of-the-soil: Jis khaak ke zameer me hai aatish-e-chinar, Mumkin nahi ki sard ho woh khaak-e-arjumand This land carries in its conscience the fire of the Chinar, That celestial fire will never die down.