Thoughtful Kashmir in the Frame

Old man and the lake. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

The silent spectators now make subtle statements about life and times in the landlocked region.

By Taha Wani

THREE old men in their sixties and seventies are reliving their heydays at a milkman’s shop in Srinagar. Apart from flashing their toothless smiles, they take turns to recount their youthful days when they would rule the roost around. But now, they lament over the lost spaces, quality of life and travesty of the idea of Kashmir.

Away from this reflective outlet, a young man is staring at a shriveled Jhelum. In the shade of Shah-e-Hamdan’s sanctum, the man seems combating his own thoughts drawing him on the riverbanks for some soul-searching.

Kashmir in winter is a gloomy picture. The pervasive shades of grey make the landscape low. At the same time, countless faces frown over their everyday troubles. What’s utopia for trippers feels a dystopia for home-growns.

Lost in thoughts. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

“Life in Kashmir exists in grey,” said a man basking in an autumn sun inside a Srinagar park. “It’s so because the severity of our weather and woes leave us numb and restless.”

The man stretched his arms in respite and came out of his thoughtful frame. “In fact,” he declared, “life in Kashmir is winter, because it’s always numb with a chilling reality.”

Metaphors now soothe the scarred souls of the city where nonconformists have long gone into hibernation. The measured meanings now derive conversations. The art of lucidity is dying. It makes most of these commoners caught in trials as some unformulated folks. Perhaps, between-the-line was never this customary.

Young anguish. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

“You see these stakeouts around you?” another thoughtful Kashmiri said. “Don’t they remind you of Galwans of yore?”

Discreet debates now create a literal vibe in the valley where a sense of scrutiny dominates a common sense. And rightly so, as the deluge of diktats hardly leave anything for imagination now.

“These things make you believe,” a wise man on the bund said, “that we’ve to be Troys of our own troubled lives now.”

Moment of seclusion. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

These anxious faces tell tale of times in Kashmir in its shifting-sand stage. They’re vale’s quiet watchers tracking the unfolding moments with hawking gazes. They understand the pulse of times and the ever-changing moods. Their sullen gazes make subtle statements about life and times in landlocked region now.

“There’s nothing wrong in sharing grief in open spaces,” said a young man. “At least, we refuse to make our collective woe a captive emotion of four walls.”

Looking for survival. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

The thoughtful Kashmir is full of oddities and vocals. They follow their own rules and reflective routine.

“You see that lad out there,” said a youth in a Srinagar’s park. “The poor guy comes here often to nurse his aching heart. The bad bonds of this city break you badly. Guess he needs a consoling hug, like all of us!”

The deserted view. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

Amid this anguish, many people are now losing their anchor, said eagle-eyed Byul on the ghats of Dal Lake.

“Don’t go by numbers, the reality is beyond them. Life demands some kind of certainty, no? If it’s not there, nothing matters — not even this so-called festive footfall.”

The mainland merrymakers walk in droves passing smiles to their sullen counterparts guarding mountains. “I tell you something,” Byul broke his long pause, “most of us crave for the times when earning was less and solace was in abundance. We’ve many earning hands in our families now, but it never suffices. I can’t explain this life. Even more is less now.”

Aged fence-sitter. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

On the battered bund of Dal Lake, these native drifters hardly seem to respond to the lively eagerness around them. They tend to make most of their moments of musings.

“Anglers and idlers have one thing in common,” said an elder stealing some moments of seclusion. “If not a prized catch, they certainly walk away with some clarity at dusk.”

Old pastime. KO Photo by Taha Wani.

The fluid nature of these characters merges them with the flow of life. They seem to carry no burden and remain in an endless search. But then they face slurs for being impractical.

“Ever wonder why a poet visits graveyard at twilight?” asked a man on Bund. “Well, that’s an existential excursion to capture the haunting reality of one’s celebrated life. These men—like this young boy—are wandering here for a reason. They’re seeking some meaning in their lives.”

Napping bench. KO Photo by Taha Wani

These characters create a different vibe in the city witnessing some ‘smart’ change these days. While the old reality is waning, the fresh outlook is hardly creating any hook.

“This city makes you think,” said an observer around Lal Chowk. “The very soul of this heritage center is undergoing some shock therapy right now. There’s no panacea in it, as the heritage is beyond revamp.”

Staring sky. KO Photo by Taha Wani

The thoughtful Kashmir is quite stark in its appearance and articulation.

And this realism makes the valley a doleful place where different shades of grey create a sense of bleakness.

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