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A splintered consciousness

Pandit houses in Srinagar that narrate tales of grandeur and lives well lived. Ashutosh Sapru reports.
Hindustan Times | By Ashutosh Sapru
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2012 01:30 AM IST

Gaunt, stricken, stripped down to the barebones. There is no denying the macabre element dominating these photographs of abandoned abodes of Kashmiri Pandit families in the Valley.

The photo essay titled Pandit Houses is artist Veer Mushi's maiden attempt at this genre.

Munshi, of course, claims the subject demanded the shift. "When I saw these houses I was at first tempted to paint them. But then I figured they would be interpretations and not representations."

The images are stark - roosters roaming a giant courtyard, window ledges caked with snow like yesterday's tears, a proud architecture turning its nose up at a lone bird exploring a blue sky.

Fifteen years after leaving the Valley, when Munshi returned on a short visit in 2006, this transformation struck him. Be it his family home in Sathu barbarshah or his maasi's house or "professor Madan's house" he remembered each place as bursting with life and activity. "I remember the kehwa-filled mornings, the discussions in the courtyard, the windows used as service windows to share the haak or the nadru curry with the neighbours ."

But the structures he beheld were bereft of life as he knew it. Most had fallen to ruin, some partly reclaimed by neighbours/locals, and others requisitioned by the armed forces. "They were not houses where we lived and loved and played. Those have been swallowed by time. And what stands now are archaeological curiosities, sole markers of a grand past."

Munshi has titled his work Pandit Houses, but in these diasporic times, nearly all of us have left behind a home we won't, can't, never will return to. But in our dreams we tip toe back, roam the courtyard with the roosters, fling open the windows and bring on the kehwa. This one is for all of us, this one is about pausing to remember.

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