The unhappy land.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Pigeons soaring up from Lal Chowk. Mist coming down the snow-capped mountains. A soldier with a gun, he is smiling. A veiled woman inside a bus, sitting on a window-side seat. An empty alley. An abandoned Pundit house. A ruined houseboat on the muddy-brown Jhelum. A white hand plucking white flowers. Lal Chowk as seen from a first-floor restaurant.
The Delhi Walla is in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, one of the world’s most heavily militarized regions.
The valley has two layers of beauty. The outer skin has superficial loveliness of snow-clad peaks and scenic lakes, a common trait of all the vulgar hill stations of South Asia. The inner layer reaches out only to those who are capable of feeling Kashmir’s violent past and uncertain future. This beauty is more delicate.
Perhaps the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) had today’s Kashmir in mind when he composed his poem Of the Shop.
He wraps them up carefully, neatly
in fine green silk of the highest quality:
roses made of rubies, lilies made of pearls,
violets of amethyst. Whatever he wills
he creates and judges it beautiful – but not
as he ever saw or studied them in nature. He puts
them in the cabinet, examples of his daring and skill
at craftsmanship. When a customer comes in he will
display some other items – still first-rate things –
bracelets and chains, necklaces and rings.
[Translated by Avi Sharon]