I The Anathema

Arshid Malik

The Camera: Kashmir is quite picturesque. The landscapes here are such that sometimes while looking through a clear glass window one feels as if one is actually looking at a picture, such is the exquisite beauty of the place. The enticing beauty of the Valley led me to develop a thought stream of turning to fulltime photography and capturing the frames of Kashmir in my lens. The only thing keeping me right now, I guess, is a limited budget due to which I cannot afford a professional single-reflex camera but I am keen on saving up for it and this instinct was further solidified ever since I walked into a small-time café in Srinagar which houses some beautiful pictures dating back to the 1940s. These pictures in the café, at least some of them, have been hand painted on archival paper and they are absolutely stunning.

The Faces: Napoleon Bonaparte has rightly said, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Kashmir in the context of this quote deserves to be captured on camera and when I am saying that I mean not only the exquisite beauty of Kashmir but the human landscape as well. The miseries of Kashmiri people are such that they cannot be depicted clearly even through first person narratives and I believe that the lens of a camera would do justice. Now please do not get me wrong here, when I say the “miseries of Kashmiri people” I am not contextualizing the era of conflict but general human suffering which may at times have nothing to do with the conflict. It is the faces that tell stories, sullen faces of Kashmiri people.

Feet Falling Off: Ever since I got diabetes I have been following a strict regimen of regular exercise and diet regulation. I got the jitters when my doctor told me that with diabetic patients there is great danger of organ damage and when he said to me, though in a lighter vein, that sometimes the feet of diabetic people “just fall off” I jumpstarted a brisk walking routine which I revere because I cannot even dare to think of my feet “falling off”. Now, my walking regimen got me into a plenty of new things. On foot, away from my dusty, chameleonic four-wheeler, I came to observe life very minutely. Now, every morning and every evening is a new chapter in my life with loads to discover and explore. And this is where I guess I require a professional SLR – to capture life in all its thoroughness.

Stills: Well, life is a fulfilling experience in itself and the more we live the more we learn. I figure every odd moment in our lives is full of embellishing experiences lest we fail to notice them. This is where stills come in. A still captured well in time memorializes experiences.

Round Robin: My usual walking routines includes discerning new elements in old places which is to say that if I pass a street regularly I mean to notice what is different about it every day. Change is inevitable and I get what I want. But sometimes a certain kind of stillness creeps in which defies the very logic of progressive as well as retrogressive change.

beautiful-kashmirBorderless: I pass by a particular street in the thick of Srinagar city everyday and there, every single day, I notice a woman sitting on the brim of the street. Wearing a worn-out “pheran”, plastic shoes and a pensive scarf she wears an eternal frown and downcast eyes she always faces a door or a wall of one or the other house where she is seated. Usually I found her shifting around on a regular basis but now she sticks to the porch-of-sorts of a house lining the street. There is something eerie about her. For all I know she is not exactly mad or something and certainly not a beggar. She has a personality, a certain kind of sad air to herself. Whenever I pass by her I slow down a bit and try to figure what she is doing. Mostly she is fiddling with a piece of bread which she never eats, I figure. The essential thing is that she is there every morning and every morning I mean to approach her and ask her something. What I am meaning to ask her eludes me but I figure that somewhere deep down I connect with her. Somehow I feel she knows what she is all about and that is why she is so at peace with herself and so “borderless”. She is not agitated or bothered by what comes and goes, be it people, vehicles, the rain or the sun. I wonder where she goes in the evening; whether she has a place to stay or not; whether she sleeps by the edge of the street or not; whether she eats or not. The truth is that her seemingly being at peace with everything drives me nuts. She is like a picture – always there, encrusted in stillness while the world moves around. Sometimes I think I should ask the locals who she is, but I fear dejection for by all means they would say that she is a mad-woman or something akin to that which I am totally not buying. She is so discreet that the entire surrounding appears maddened in comparison to her. This morning when I passed by her I was absolutely amazed. She had a cardboard lid in her hands, perhaps part of a shoebox, in which she had cut a prefect hole the size of a medium sized orange. On the lid she had placed a satchel of sorts, a small polythene bag filled with some sand and pebbles. She was swinging the lid back and forth and sometimes in circles attempting to make the satchel fall through the hole and believe me she was so engrossed in the “task” that it seemed as if she was in deep meditation. I guess no professional camera in the world can grasp this picture I write about.

I the Anathema: The woman by the side of the road who wears time like a sleeve has made me detest myself. I guess she makes me an anathema to myself. And anathemas are concepts which elude words as well as pictures. So be it. I figure my limited budget is so because it is meant to be, to keep me from buying a useless piece of technology. I better stick to words.

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