Us & Them – Kashmir

It is here that I decide to be a Lens. Just the lens of a camera. Period. But I secretly wish I was a human here, in this princess of lands, that an emperor once called ‘Firdaus’ – Persian for paradise.

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How I envy the splendour of the valleys that these locals dwell in, the silent opulence of their lakes and the exquisiteness of their cuisine, the wazwan. But there’s hardly ever a thing called a free lunch. Being a human has its own costs, especially in a land that evokes the strongest of pathos, from the natural beauty of a landscape & equally from the unnatural ugliness of a conflict and as much as I may yearn for it, I can’t afford to be a human here. I’m glad being just the lens, that doesn’t belong to any human, not even an eye, for even then I may end up taking sides!

I’m glad being just a lens, I’d hardly ever have to face winds as fierce in a terrain as tough..

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I’m glad being a lens for all I captured with this nomadic Bakarwal kid was his horse, and not the herculean effort of his family climbing the Himalayan passes up every summer and then down to Jammu every winter

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I’m pleased that I could pretend to just glare incessantly into the eyes of ‘chacha‘ and not listen to his woes of insufficient payments and insensitive trekkers & inefficient travel unions

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I’m glad that I could stare at the faces of these school boys but not at the uncertainty of their future

School Students

Oh and being a lens has its perks too, for I’m the only one an army would allow in its camps to capture whatever I want!

Soldier

But then that’s all that a lens can gather from a scene. And it saddens me. A land like Kashmir deserves far more than my mechanical visions.

I’m sad because I could only capture the innocent look of little Ashfaq but could hardly zoom into his dreams of growing up and becoming a soldier..

Ashfaq

I could take in the mountains and the pastures but not the delight of having a chai in the lap of the very same mountains

Chai in the Mountains

I’m angry that I could only watch with wariness when these eyes approached me, I wish I had emphasized more on the excitement in them while they recalled their travels to other parts of India

Student

And I’m disappointed that even though I focussed on the eyes of the other ‘Chacha’ , I was barely capable of focussing on his pride of climbing those numerous passes and mountains as a Kashmiri

Chacha

Truth is, it’s tough even being just a lens in Kashmir. I’v already been happy, glad, sad, angry and disappointed narrating this to you. Perhaps even as a lens, I was taking sides. May be, being an eye wouldn’t have been that tough. May be then I would have seen beyond the smoke that lies between me and them.  May be if I had been an eye, I’d have known the better of taking sides!

Chai in the mountains

You may also like –

Us & Them  – Rajasthan

Us & Them – Kids in Ladakh

Us & Them – Sri Lanka

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Have you been to Kashmir? What were your impressions of the place?