It is a prison that has a record of a unique human tragedy
FREEZE FRAME BY SYEDA AFSHANA
This is a distress call from a big beautiful prison. I am calling someone out there. Hello, is anybody listening?
I have with me thousands lodged in only one of its kind lock up. It is a prison that sprawls far and wide, with all house and streets falling under it. Everyone—old, young and children— have been imprisoned.
I and all others have become the mute followers of diktats. Diktats imposed from every side. We are sandwiched. Shutdowns and curfews. Stones and bullets. Decrees and laws. Criticism and victimization. There is no in-between. Anarchy sways.
I am stunned and shaken. Confused and cornered. Is it really a replay of 90’s? The memories are still sharp and cruel. A shattering hailstorm of bullets and gory splitting of blood. Betrayals in the backyard. A crumpled history. Dishevelled promises. And most poignant of all, the belied hopes wreathed in smudge and smoke.
This is Kashmir, then and now, cruising along through many a moon ago. Populace doomed to death and raspy moans giving way to shell shocked numbness bordering on disbelief. Kashmir continues to remain mired in obnoxious reality long after the headlines fade away. The eyes of evil; the hands of injustice; and the face of tyranny—all this gets immortalized.
Words tell stories, the facts and the details, the depth and the background. However, images evoke emotion and, more importantly, memory. We quickly forget the facts and details, the precise names, dates and places.
But we recall the images: the blood smeared dead bodies; the pedestrians fleeing a violent scene; the injured rushed to the hospital; the dwellings gutted into ruins; the vigil under the shadow of gun; the commonplace identification parades and cordons; the shutdowns and desolate streets; and much more.
Images in Kashmir always arrive with enough impact to leave a lasting impression whilst words land mostly with an intellectual whisper. Once a mother wailing over the corpse of her young son appears in print, she’s everyone’s mother. Once a begging orphan child is on the front page, he’s everyone’s child. Once coffins occupy a few inches of newsprint, they translate the blinkered past. Empathy is natural.
The Washington Post photo-journalists Carol Guzy loves to quote: ‘Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, I’ll understand.’ Rightly so. During the last two decades, the lenses from Kashmir have brilliantly captured the resilience and remorse in the human spirit, even in the most dangerous situations.
Our Photo-journalists with cameras have voyaged into so many different souls and subjects. Their lensed pieces have proven to be historical documents and wistful reminders. Sometimes they really touch our very souls. And yes, at times, they make a difference. Perhaps a small difference to one person for one moment on one day, but meaningful nonetheless.
The lens men from here have always tried to catch and communicate their best. It may not fetch them Pulitzers but it has surely revealed their knack of photographic story-telling. And then, it’s the people in the pictures and those who view them that are the important ones, and both perhaps testify their calibre.
However, their work so far has remained unacknowledged and disintegrated. That they ought to be duly encouraged, and their work preserved as a powerful witness and documented systematically by any autonomous body, makes a good proposal. Their frames deserve to be etched into permanent memory, for with their succour our posterity may easily discern the recycled death of Kashmir, hear its dying heartbeats, sense its last gasping, and mourn the loss of sense in a land where nothing goes beyond the experiments and expirations, the blusters and blunders.
As I write these lines, there is a slow bewailing in the neighbourhood about a young boy shot and battling for his life at SKIMS. There is an eerie silence around after a violent ding-dong battle in the out street, the only real sign that tells it’s not all okay.
I am again wordless, couched in a prison with the record of intangibles creeping in and the imagination sneaking out, as figures shelter a painful nostalgia between them. What consoles me are the words of Faiz’s prison poem ‘Evening’ translated by Agha Shahid Ali:
Now darkness will never come—
And there will never be morning.
The sky waits for the spell to be broken,
for History to tear itself from this net . . .
(The Rebel’s Silhouette)
(The author teaches at Media Education Research Centre, MERC, University of Kashmir).
Lastupdate on : Sat, 31 Jul 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 31 Jul 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 1 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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