Silent viewers now make subtle statements about life and times in the landlocked region.
By Taha Wani
JHREE old men in their 60s and 60s relive their prime in a milkman’s shop in Srinagar. Along with showing off their toothless smiles, they take turns recounting their youthful days when they ruled the roost. But now they lament the wasted spaces, the quality of life and the travesty of the idea of Kashmir.
Away from this reflective outlet, a young man stares at a shrunken Jhelum. In the shadow of the shrine of Shah-e-Hamdan, the man seems to fight his own thoughts, drawing him to the banks for introspection.
Kashmir in winter is a grim picture. The ubiquitous shades of gray make the landscape look low. At the same time, countless faces are frowning at their daily troubles. What is a utopia for trippers is a dystopia for locals.
“Life in Kashmir exists in grey,” said a man basking in the autumn sun in a park in Srinagar. “It is so because the harshness of our climate and our misfortunes leave us numb and restless.”
The man stretched out his arms in relief and stepped out of his pensive frame. “In fact,” he said, “life in Kashmir is winter, as it is always numbed by a frightening reality.”
Metaphors now soothe the bruised souls of the city where non-conformists have long been in hibernation. Measured meanings now derive from conversations. The art of lucidity is dying. This causes most of these commoners to be caught in lawsuits as unformulated people. Maybe, between the lines has never been so common.
“Do you see these surveillances around you?” said another pensive Kashmiri. “Don’t they remind you of the Galwans of old?”
The low-key debates now create a literal vibe in the valley where the sense of scrutiny overpowers common sense. And rightly so, because the deluge of diktats leaves almost nothing to the imagination.
“These things make you believe,” said a wise man on the levee, “that we must be the Troys of our own troubled lives now.”
These anxious faces tell the story of Kashmir in its quicksand phase. They are the silent observers of Vale who follow the unfolding moments with peddling gazes. They understand the pulse of time and ever-changing moods. Their sullen gazes make subtle statements about life and times in a landlocked region now.
“There is nothing wrong with sharing grief in open spaces,” said one young man. “At least we refuse to make our collective unhappiness an emotion captive to four walls.”
Thoughtful Kashmir is full of quirks and voices. They follow their own rules and thinking routine.
“You see that boy over there,” said a youth in a park in Srinagar. “The poor guy often comes here to heal his aching heart. The bad ties of this town break you badly. I guess he needs a comforting hug, like all of us!
Amidst this anguish, many people are now losing their anchor, said eagle-eyed Byul on the ghats of Dal Lake.
“Don’t be fooled by the numbers, the reality goes beyond them. Life requires some kind of certainty, right? If it’s not there, nothing matters, not even this so-called festive passage.
Mainland revelers march in droves smiling at their brooding counterparts guarding the mountains. “I’m telling you something,” Byul interrupted his long pause, “most of us crave the times when incomes were less and comfort was abundant. We now have many winning hands in our families, but that doesn’t never enough. I can’t explain this life. Even more is less now.
On the battered embankment of Dal Lake, these native wanderers seem to barely respond to the lively ardor that surrounds them. They tend to make the most of their daydreaming moments.
“Fishermen and idlers have one thing in common,” said an elder who stole a few moments of self-isolation. “If it’s not a prized take, they certainly come out with some clarity at dusk.”
The fluid nature of these characters merges them with the flow of life. They seem to bear no burden and remain in an endless search. But then they face insults for being Not practical.
“Have you ever wondered why a poet visits a cemetery at dusk? asked a man from the Bund. “Well, this is an existential excursion to capture the haunting reality of his celebrated life. These men, like this young boy, wander here for a reason. They search for meaning in their lives.
These characters create a different vibe in the city, witnessing some “smart” changes these days. As the old reality fades, the new perspectives create hardly any hooks.
“This city is sobering,” said one observer around Lal Chowk. “The very soul of this heritage center is currently undergoing shock therapy. There is no panacea in this, because heritage is beyond revamping.
The thoughtful Kashmir is quite austere in appearance and articulation.
And that realism makes the valley a gloomy place where different shades of gray create a sense of gloom.
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