Sumit Dayal: Wish you live long
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The words of T.S. Eliot describe, quite eloquently, the feelings I have experienced since returning home to Kashmir after a seventeen-year gap. Winding alleys with latticed houses, alpine meadows with grazing horses, gondolas floating to the sound of Azans — it is these memories of a fairy tale childhood that lured me back to Kashmir in 2009. It’s thorny to ignore the relics of Kashmir’s futile past and even though ghosts of political history stare back at me during Friday protests, funeral marches, and the occasional insurgency, I try to fade these out and focus my attention on subtle aspects like the unfolding scenes of daily life, the static-ness of objects, and the changing seasons and moments that precipitate childhood memories. In doing so, for largely personal reasons, I am attempting to understand ‘Kashmir-i-yat’, the essence of being a Kashmiri.
The focus and approach in Wish you live long have evolved over time, eventually branching out into three broad themes: returning home, anonymous portraits collected from the Line of Control, and the family album.