Stepping into the last month of the year with a little hope and faith in the future. This is me…just telling myself that, hoping I’ll feel like it. Fake it…till you make it. The past two years have been trying, so has the past week but one will hopefully bounce back, with a ferocity that is genetic. You should have met what (not who but what) I came out of…on her worst days, she was the wildest thing, you could have laid eyes on! I pale in comparison and how…not as nice ( opposite of it actually), not as pretty ( my Kashmiri apple..I used to call her that…was too cute) and not as ferocious, either. Sometimes, I am saddened by how little of that people remember, I guess like my brother’s memories, her escapades too shall disappear with me. What she did for others, everyone remembers, which is lovely but what made her so unique, is albeit a distant memory!
A few things popped up, today. Someone shared a meme, about mums and then there was news of someone passing away…which made me touchy because, well, somethings remind me of my mom, plus, like they say, one thinks too much and feels too much, which sometimes, also means one ends up saying too much which I guess, I shouldn’t. Having a few of those days, when I have had to filter my impulses, hide and delete them, knowing there’s no point in reacting! Have to learn to keep my feelings and words in check! Someone, should pack me off to Kashmir every two months, to calm down! Unfortunately, I am here and all the gorgeousness of the autumn there!
Death-Ashes to ashes, baby, dust to dust. I’ll be forgotten in two hours but the rest of you, too shall become someone, somebody knew. Remembered, once in a while by someone who loved you. Hmmm, or if you have a traumatic ending like I hope to have, you might become an example. Aise karoge to uss ki tarah banjoge! Dude, in a world full of nice be the freaking aberration!- Saadiyaism, I should term my nonsense, utterances !
My ideal, death scenario- dying in car, on an open highway, with the wind blowing through my hair…hopefully, fingers crossed, in Kashmir. About me, they shall say-‘Aaj tak kissi di gal nahi, sunni iss kuddi ne! Hun dekho aee ki hogaya!’ Here’s hoping, one remains a cocky little shit, till one’s dying day! That’s something to look forward to!
Got a panic call from a friend, this morning. ‘Do you want to marry a Muslim man? Is uncle not giving you the permission to marry outside your community?’ The question was met with peels of laughter from my end. ‘ Do you think if I wanted to, anyone would be able to stop me from doing it? My dad would only be too happy if I agree to marry anybody at all, as long as I am paying for it! Come on, we may have a tumultuous relationship but there is nothing he would like more than a son-in- law, especially a live in one, irrespective of what religion he follows! The question is whether, I will marry a Muslim man, not whether anyone will allow me to? Well, I could as long as a man, any man, will not ask me to change my name, my religion, will be okay with the kids using my surname as well ( unless, they don’t want to use mine or either of ours), will not ask me to straighten my hair, will be ok with how I look (weight, colour of my skin etc) and the most important will be okay with living with two different versions of me, both that aren’t very pleasant! So, no, till I don’t find such a namoona, I don’t want to marry anyone, so all of you stop fretting!’
The panic, was created due to a comment I made on a page called, ‘Being woman’. Aftab, murdered his live in partner Shraddha and mercilessly chopped her into pieces, burnt her face and dumped her into a fridge. The cold blooded murderer, then kept her remains at home for twenty days, dated other women, while her corpse was in the house and then scattered her remains, one at a time, every night at 2 a.m in the Mehrauli forest. Gruesome, is the word for it!
But considering the regressive state our society has been stuck in forever and the current political climate; this murder like everything else became about questioning the woman’s morality, a sermon about the virtues of listening to your parents and of course the man’s religious identity. Is he Parsi or Muslim? Muslim it turns out to be! Not that it makes an ounce of a difference.
But if you grew up in as Islamophobic an environment as I did, where right from childhood you were told, ‘ kisse naal bhi vyaa kari muslmaan naal ni kari!’by the elders in the family…you know where all this is coming from. Sikhs are terribly suspicious of the ‘other’ and surprisingly this is not just the generation that moved from Pakistan. I was at a holi party, this year and a Sikh friend of mine, who had seen the Kashmir files, said things that were exactly the same things that the elders of the family, who actually witnessed horrific things, say! So the bias, is carried through generations and has very little to do with actual experience. But you know what, all the suspicion vanishes when people come face to face…when they have personal relationships. The same friend, was really nice to my Kashmiri Muslim friend, six months later, at another party. My nani, who was always worried that l would elope with an Muslim man, said to me before she passed away, ‘if you want to marry a Muslim man, go ahead!’ Inspite of her belief, Ms Rashid was like a daughter to her. My bhabhi who is a Muslim woman from Bhaderwah, remains an angel to the family because they know her! For my friends who spew venom against the community, Afshan remains wonderful.
The hate is directed towards an abstract, a wound of the past, carried through generations but who you love is real- flesh and blood! Love is….love! It gets embedded on your mind, heart and sometimes even on your skin, irrespective of what religion the man follows! If the love of Shraddha’s life was Muslim, she wasn’t going to not live with him because society was against it!
Unfortunately, in this case, it ended badly for her. But there are many cases of such kinds of murder, where the perpetrators weren’t Muslim. The trouble is, the poor girl lost her life and her dignity is being stripped off of her mercilessly, as all her decisions are being dissected, ruthlessly! Then we wonder, why she didn’t leave him? This is why. If she was alive no one would have spared to punish her for this bad decision. I’m saddened by the loss of her life but I grieve more for the life she must have led. Don’t you think, something must be terribly wrong with her existence if her family didn’t figure out she was dead? It was another man, a male friend who got worried! Don’t you think, Aftab knew that she had no where else to go, no one who would have stood up for her (other than her male friends) if he misbehaved with her? If anyone knows, including a cold hearted killer, that you are loved and cared for, they cover their tracks better. He knew her weakness and he exploited that. I feel sorry for the lonely life, this girl must have led. Not knowing you have people in your corner…no place to call home, isn’t a nice feeling and definitely leaves you exposed to wolves! She should have left….I wish she knew where to go!
P.S- One comment on a post, on a random page, got me comments like -‘ You are poison for your parents!’, ‘ You will get a big fridge’ ‘How many children do you have?’ and ‘Frustrated Nibbi!. Wow! Remind me to indulge in this nonsense when I’m getting bored, this is entertaining!
An entire body of works, from 2007 till 2022, is part of a book project, titled- The Women of Kashmir. Over the years much has changed in my subject’s lives personally and in terms of their identity! I might take some pictures next year, as well, you never know with me! The book is divided into a few parts, some of the works have been shown over the years at the India Art Fair, like the one above but most of them have only been emailed to a few curators and ofcourse Mary Ellen Mark (attended her workshop in 2010) who was instrumental in directing the works this way .
Many a books have come out from the time I began. That doesn’t hinder my project in any way. When one initially began, the only way female photographers would shoot Kashmir, was to go through NGO’s. I took the same route, met Parveena and Parvez, though they were very helpful, I realized that I don’t do well with viewing the world through anyone’s eyes but my own- skewed, tainted, cynical ones! Plus, I’m not an activist, philanthropist not even a feminist. Right from the word go, from my first book, which is stark white and black with hints of colour, to my first film- Loss- which looked at the problems faced by the Kashmiri Muslim and Kashmiri Pandits, one holds what one calls the ‘ greediest view of the world’, wanting to look at everything- from every possible direction one can!
There’s much that one hasn’t been able to do in Kashmir, there’s much when I view the works in their entirety, look at and think, wait a little longer, try a little harder but without organisations pushing you, without proper press credentials and with being looked suspiciously at by both parties- the Pandits think I’m Muslim and with an agenda and the Kashmiri Muslims, a lot of times think I’m a spy; this is what I could do.
Like curator after curator, has been telling me, it’s time to release it, maybe it is! But one’s apprehensive, it ain’t good enough just about yet and once the works come out…I might not be able to return ‘home’!
Side note/ technology is handy, anytime you get accused by some hot shot-there’s Flicker, which will display all your file info and your emails, too can help determining who all were sent the images. This is valuable info for long term projects because anyone can quickly churn out something and turn the tables on you. When I put up the image above, a very famous male photographer got pissed with me. Someone who uses ‘black backgrounds’! Thankfully, for me the pictures had already been published, long before, he did his show and my first book, was filled with such pictures. Unfortunately, I can’t accuse him of the same because it’s needless, doesn’t work in reverse and two because I have studied and taught photography, so what a hypocrite I would be, to get my own references from international photographers and then accuse someone else!