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While Sadiq’s residence is rubble, Ashiq’s sank in Dal lake, and Arif’s lays scattered in a forest. These people of land, water and forest are divided in terms of geographical locations, but their grief unites them in their helplessness at the hands of strife in Kashmir. No sooner did a battery of exultant counterinsurgents retreat from Shopian’s three-day-long military operational zone, two school boys walked up to a smouldering site. With teary eyes, they looked…

While lighting an incense stick with the flame of a melting candle, Zarnaq, a ten year old girl at Hazratbal told me how she misses Durood the most this year. As per the instructions from the authorities, the gatherings on the night of Meraj were prohibited this year, and hence the gates of many mosques were locked up soon after the Isha prayers. “This is the first time in my lifetime that I am seeing…

Behind the current tourism façade, the unaddressed issue of fading boats is distressing Dal Lake dwellers. Part of the problem is said to be last year’s draft and decree of years — pushing the ‘anchorless’ community to obscurity now. On the deck of his floating house, Yaqoob Duno laments over his tribe’s identity loss in the ‘water graveyard’. Ever since the pandemic created another phase of pathos in the “world-famous Dal Lake”, it has consumed…

Caught between militarisation of habitat and apathy, as the world community is observing the Wildlife Day, risk of extinction for the Hangul looms large. Passing fingers gently over the pointed and branched antlers, put at a display on the entrance of their grandparent’s home, two siblings Muafiq and Faizan cherish the majesty of the unseen red deer. Septuagenarian Mohammad Yousuf Wani, their grandfather recalls how occasionally, ‘Kashmir’s prized animal’ used to stray close to their…

Cups of Nun Chai (2020), published by Yarbal Books, is an archive of stories that give a glance into the extraordinary lives of ordinary people affected by the Kashmir conflict. Led by the 2010 civilian uprising in the valley post the killing of 17 year-old-boy Tufail Mattoo, the book attests to the loss of lives, power dynamics in politics, influence of the nation-state on the commonfolk, leaping into the normalization of political violence and death…

Grew up as a struggling farm boy, a Ladakhi doctor lost his mother and many of his tribe members to cervical cancer — compelling him to become contemporary Ladakh’s cancer crusader. The thick tyres of an off-road jeep come to a screeching halt, as Dr Nordan Otzer gets off at a desolate area in Hunder village in Nubra valley of Ladakh. The old-world parish — where the shadows of the brown mountains and fleecy white…

Behind the occasional flying tempers and sudden screams in Kashmir hospitals, the fatal health crisis created by nutritional deficiencies remains the least reported and talked about affair. It looked like a routine medical emergency announced by a speedy ambulance’s wailing siren on the streets of Srinagar, but the ensued mourning only made it a last ride of a young woman knitting woollens to welcome her baby till the other day. The labour pain had set…

Coming from a place where Saadut Hasan Manto bled his pen dog in the hinterland games of the two hostile neighbours, one of the ‘inmates’ of Kashmir deplored colony decries the social stigma associated with leprosy despite the disease being controlled and effectively curable. Engrossed in storytelling, Parvez Alam used his bare fingers to level the hot embers in Kangri, a traditional firepot to battle Kashmir’s harsh winter. Matter of fact, he did not even…

Extolled for getting Onassis AIR Emergency Fellowship at the moment, Suhail Naqshbandi swears to deliver his mastery through the sheet that is already replete with a quality of endurance to the trained and untrained set of eyes. When children of his age, cocooned in privilege, were discovering Pink Floyd, he was trying to make sense of the pandemic of death and grey weather that continues to besiege his homeland till this date. At 16 and…

In melancholic matrix of 2020, a melody amid myriad musical tracks struck the right chords with a poignant plot and captivating camera frames. Unlike driving and singing, like in Ride Home, or the flaring pitch on frosty banks of Dal Lake, as in Like a Sufi, Mohammad Muneem Nazir of Alif is standing in a mass grave — dealing with the dead and deadpan expressions in his new composition. The opening takes you inside some…