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Travel Tale

 

Kashmir: Something surreal about sitting with your feet in ice cold water, back to the sun, picking stones from the river at Pahalgam on a weekday afternoon. Mirroring the disjointed images of a fractured beautiful landscape that I have travelled over the last few days in Kashmir.

 

Older generations, with their time honoured traditions of hospitality, struggling to make sense of nature’s wrath; a younger breed, previously stereotyped, gaining legitimacy after serving selflessly in the floods. A stone pelter turned video volunteer, a young girl studying Political Science in one of the most conflict affected villages in Palhalan.

 

The older women speaking of domestic violence in hushed tones, of seeking a peace of mind in such troubled times. Men in the community almost innured to the tension in the air as sundown approaches. The capital city bustling as people go about their business during the day, the roads emptying as the evening draws to a close. An irate auto driver chastising some of us for straying at night, as we make our way back to our guest house,designated as a safe zone. Shattering the semblance of normalcy somewhat.

 

From strikes in remembrance of the devastating floods last year, to celebrations of resilience in agricultural communities in Baramulla and Bandipora. Desolate orchards with gnarled apple and walnut trees, withering away hopelessly; new blades of Sudan grass and SRI bringing alive hopes of regeneration.