In the summer of 2011, it was the fifth day of my tour to
Kashmir. We were at Pahalgham. It was early morning and I was just having a walk in my hotel garden when I first meet Aarif. He was a small boy of about 8 yrs age. I said ‘hello’ and we started talking. He was very excited to tell me everything about Pahalgham and his lifestyle there. While talking to him I asked him to take me to his cottage where he lives with his family. I was curious about his family, their way of living, their routines and their point of view.
I was on my way to document his life in my own style.
I was welcomed by a lane of white towels. The reason - tenants who did laundry business. Heading towards his cottage through the towel lane, I came across Aarif’s small brother Shaheed and his cousin Aarushi. They were so cute that I couldn’t stop clicking them. Their shy mannerisms were lovely to capture.
Aarif then took me inside his cottage. It was a lovely wooden cottage with warm interiors. He introduced me to two beautiful people- his grandpa and his mother ‘Gulshan’.
They all welcomed me with such enthusiasm that our ancient saying ringed in my ears – ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’.
They had a very typical Kashmiri house and at it’s entrance was an old wooden shoe rack which was truly a wonderful frame to be captured. Aarif then took me to his kitchen ,it had an ethnic ambience with old utensils hanging around and comfortable sitting arrangement on the ground.
Suddenly, Aarif’s mausi Rehana, peeked through the door, to see what was happening. She was the perfect Kashmiri muse that I was waiting to capture. I was lucky enough to get my clicks as they were not shy about getting photographed at all!
I then thought of meeting the main person of the house so he took me to the bunglow next to his cottage to introduce me to his grandpa. At first our conversation started in English which surprise me for a while but later on I found out that he had been a foreigner’s guide in Pahalgham in his youth and now was the caretaker for this bungalow. He was so popular in his village that his cottage had been named after him – Ahmedbhat.
As the day proceeded all the family members started to come home one by one and I was lucky I could meet the entire family in the evening, except for Aarif’s father. Aarif stays with his parents and two small brothers along with his grandpa grandma and his mama’s family.Aarif’s mama expired two years back in an accident leaving behind his wife Sakina and their three children .While capturing Sakina I could see the sorrow in her eyes but a smile on her face for her children. She is living only for them and her smile gives them the strength to go ahead in life.
Aarif then took me to his storage room where he shown me his old Tv which he broke! Kangdi - a basket filled with coals kept inside clothes to keep them warm during extreme cold and some more things. Before leaving they offered me tea and some homemade biscuits which I enjoyed with all kids watching a bollywood movie. After that sweet snack I took a family portrait and I moved on carrying sweet memories, pleasant experience and some bonds of kinship which cannot be explained.
I had a strange experience where you meet some random people in your life, with whom you bond instantly and for that day you become a part of their family. I tried to capture my experience with Aarif’s family through the only tool I had with me. I hope you enjoy this documentation as much as I enjoyed capturing it.