The Indian Quarterly, a prominent magazine publishing literature and engaging with culture, carried a short essay by KPC called ‘A Familial Kashmir’ as a part of their July 2019 issue, on the theme of memory:
Here is an excerpt:
“In all narratives about Kashmir there is now only a subtext, no text… Even before we come to solutions, our big challenge is going to be emancipating ourselves from the syndrome called Kashmir. We will have to unsettle so many of our entrenched assumptions, perhaps even feign a naivete, just so that some space opens up for something new… There are too many people trying to change things in Kashmir; too few giving a space of understanding.”—Pratap Bhanu Mehta
You have seen these photographs thousands of times before, because the aesthetic of the family album is universal. People stand together to imprint a moment of cohesion that holds some meaning for them into the compact space of a frame. They are so unextraordinary, so unremarkable, that it is only when they are seen together and marked “Kashmir” that they begin to undermine the generic and mundane narrative that might otherwise be expected to surface from such a quotidian terrain.
Who shares their family albums with strangers? Why would you allow your past lives, your friends and relatives to appear on walls outside your home? We know the intimacy of looking over the shoulder of a grandparent as they thumb through a sheaf of memories, stopping intermittently to recall, growing cognizant of their mortality, pointing wrinkled fingers at cousins, friends, aunts, uncles, lovers. These moments take place in living rooms and bedrooms, within the familiar trusting space of intergenerational exchange, as part of a ritual, a routine of remembering, or when an unexpected visitor gestures to the fading face hanging on the wall and asks: Who is that? Where is that? What happened that day?
When the culture of reciprocity—inherent in family and friendships—that creates room for the organic retelling of stories evaporates, the homegrown recuperation of history that the family photograph has always symbolised comes to a halt. The Kashmir Photo Collective reopens the space for the reparative ritual of storytelling by embodying the role of the unexpected visitor who stumbles upon the forgotten. As we return again and again to the Kashmir Valley in search of collections, large and small groups of photographs, we pave pathways through the archival process that allow us to see Kashmir anew.
The full article can be read here: https://indianquarterly.com/a-familial-kashmir/