Grey shades of Valley: A Photo Essay

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The Valley of Kashmir is known to mesmerise all and sundry owing to its striking features and breathtaking countenance. Apart from natural beauty, the culture and life in this mountain land strike a chord of awe among people. Kashmir Life’s photojournalist, Bilal Bahadur shares different facets of life in the Valley. 

Chores Cajole: Woods in my land have still that spark left. Spark that lit passionate hearths around, that smoulders meditated minds and that blazes the darling delight somewhere deep inside us.

Ferrying Firewood: Female folks in the countryside of Valley are returning back from forests after collecting firewood.

Cultural Cradle: Those olden days, when earthen piggy-bank would store our precious treasure as a kid, you remember. And that cheerful fellow at street-side, whose wooden-shop would cradle Kashmiri traits, now stands sidelined. He was once heard saying: “They crumble my piggy-banks under their feet. Since then, kids of my land have ceased to deposit their coin treasures. They are left only to recollect their woes now.”

Traditional Tools: Women purchasing traditional artifacts from the local shopkeeper in Srinagar.

Shy Sights: And when streets were at loggerheads; peeping wasn’t that seldom. Sights turned scary, movement became muzzled and then, life adorned a withered look. And that dub, that meditating window suddenly turned sullen. It is still sullen, as sight outside turned into sombre.

Window Watchers: Girls looking outside from the traditional Kashmiri window or Dub in Srinagar.   

Surly Shadows: Along with the shadow of Chinar, they let loose the shadow of uniform. It had to happen, since beckon for dignity was vociferous. They shiver over the coming sight, and hence alien shadow sans serenity loomed large.

Surly Shadows: The paramilitary men standing near the Bund in Srinagar.

Cooped Creature: Myriad interceptions, those crimson shade halts, pushed life behind scenes. Childhood memories now narrate incarcerated reminiscence. They produce heap of nightmares out of dream stuff.

Behind Wires: A girl looks behind from the concertina wire.  

Ogle Oldies: Parched faces, those grief-stricken mortals are in doldrums now. Salt and pepper stock of vale was never so melancholic. That sense of loss is what stirs the whirlpool of woes in most of us.

Glancing Grands: Senior citizens of rural Kashmir assembled during an event in village.

Crimson Canopy: In the autumn of our land, love-soaked souls often trample the shed-out miseries of life. Nay! Love is what we breathe, please don’t cast aspersions. Under the silhouettes of serene chinars, we love to tread and trance.

Crimson Canopy: A couple walks under the shade of Chinars in Srinagar.

White Wallop: Last time when white fall from heavens, the vale wore the look of shroud. We did clear it from our alleys, streets and roads, but that incessant white that wrap our beloved couldn’t get cleared. It is still falling.

Snow Cover: A man clearing snow on the pathway in Badamwari in Srinagar.Gala Girl: When morose started become palpable on our faces, we did apply cheerful makeover. But strokes of cosmetic treatment proved bad actors. They did expose the underlying characters, whenever antagonist let loose habitual offences.Festive Mood: Gujjar girls getting ready to perform in an event in Srinagar.

Reaping Resilience: Our crops never disappoint us until reapers started thinning. Say it, they were made to thin, just because they were yearning for greater harvest. Now on the same fields, we have delicate yet resilient replacements now.

Sowing Strength: A woman in rural Kashmir sowing the paddy saplings.

Solemn Seekers: Hands often cup towards heavens to seek emancipation. Divine intervention is the last refuge for those, who were let down by mundane egos. Withered, suffered and toiled enough, Almighty, let us have some respite now.

Seeking Salvation: An elderly woman lifts her hands towards Heaven during Urs (religious festival ) in Srinagar.

Linked Lineage: Jhelum is witness to all. And that archaic bridge, which has ferrying generations together is equally evident. The 400 hundred years and counting, Isn’t there a limit to human endurance. How far could one survive the hostile histrionics?

Linked Lineage: The bridge over the Jhelum in Srinagar.

Serene Siren: And then the cacophony of our waters escalated. Melodies lost, so did streamlined flow, but wet in our land is still intact. We lost it through our crystal balls, plenty. Our water isn’t so meek; it knows the art of raging storm.

Stream Flow: The water body flowing through the mountain peaks.

Majestic Minaret: At that point where Muezzin’s beckon meet sky, we have let loose our birds of salvation. Delay in getting answers was never assumed denial. Our prayers are the signs of our optimistic countenance.

Majestic Minaret: A view of Jamia Masjid Srinagar during evening hours.

Wobble Whirlpool: Synergy is vibrant, amigo. And when all heads converge, then the tsunami of possibilities diverge. Don’t they complain that ours is divided house, which has offshoots in zillion. If only that synergy would have been incorporated, can we at least wish for it?

Wobble Whirlpool: A gathering of people during Urs celebration in Hazratbal Kashmir.

Ruffled Reflections: We often cast our image on running waters now, perhaps to make sense of our appearance. Mirrors of delight have been broken long back, when youth was put in prison. And our chinars, who would refresh weary travellers under their shadow too learnt to sail shadow on running waters in protest over the curb of travellers.

Ruffled Reflections: Chinars and their reflections on Jhelum river in Bund Srinagar.

Confined Canvas: The narrowing down of canvas of life meant window peeps. We all did it, whether alleys were violent or vibrant.

Traditional Abode: Women watching from the traditional wooden houses in Srinagar.

Floating Fancy: In that boat, which took us to other side of divide, the voyage is stirring nostalgia. And that euphoria which turned rustics into aspiring sailors stands stalled now.

Floating Fancy: Standing in front of picturesque background, a houseboat remains stalled on Jhelum.

Absorbed Agony: And most of us have set our sight at distant ending of road, perhaps hoping to have one last glimpse of those who became disappeared all of the sudden. Wrinkles have now cropped up on youthful faces while waiting to unite with those who are relentless to show up.

Absorbed Elder: An old lady sitting absorbed near the window of her house in Srinagar.

Mesmerized Meadow: The meadow of solitude wasn’t in our fate, yet the imposing wills ensure it with apt authority.

Mesmerized Meadow: The view of one of the picturesque meadows of Kashmir.

Warm Woes: We hugged the fate that ensured miseries for us. We never shy, we still do. But our warm-selves was never a sign of our meekness.

Warm Union: Women in rural Kashmir sharing pleasantries with each other.

Patrolling Personnel: And when streets were off from civilian movement, then uniform keep manning them.

Patrolling Personnel: Paramilitary men manning the Lal Chowk in one of the curfew days.

Cindering City: In the old city, where Jhelum’s serpentine movement passes through the droop dwellings, people say, the flowing water isn’t the same.

Cindering City: The landscape view of Jhelum and houses on its banks.

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