I’m a House
Strife between India and Pakistan over Kashmir stretches back to the era of Partition, and it’s a history filled with contention and the dissonance of politicians, cultural critics, religious scholars, and Western “experts.” Hence, it’s incredibly pleasing to hear from not only professional analysts but also “common people” on what it’s like to live in a conflict zone. The Kashmir Walla is a monthly digital journal on the arts, politics, and society of Asia and the Middle East, focusing upon expressions of dissent within the broader context of conflict while seeking to bring a more nuanced understanding of ordinary lives amidst these regions. The November 2013 issue contains a haunting photoessay of grand homes abandoned by Kashmiri Pandits during periods of escalating violence. Stark black and white images captured by photographer Muhabit al Haq are accompanied by text from writer Siddhartha Gigoo. Image and text catapult the reader into a milieu of houses still waiting, bereft of loving owners and the sounds of everyday life:
Nothing escaped me. The conversations stuck to my walls like tattoos. Grandmother roasted chestnuts in firepots. The fragrance is still trapped in my bosom. Well, to be honest, some of it has faded away over the years. The long and desolate winters stole it. I saw myself through the eyes of my family. I saw my reflection in their dreams. I was beautiful.
You can view Haq’s gorgeous images and read more of Gigoo’s evocative musings here.