Self published by Kash, The Heart of Kashmir is a beautifully printed book that spans seven years of his life photographing the divided nation of Kashmir. Compassionate and objective, Kash captures the small pleasures of daily life amidst the pains wrought by a 50-year-old conflict foreshadowed by a military presence that features large in the background of his lens.
Academic and acknowledged expert on Kashmir Victoria Scofield has said of The Heart of Kashmir: “It is a book of pain, hope and engagement.” The pain is never more clearly seen than on the cover image – here it is pain mixed with dread fear as the young boy is gripped by the realisation that his loved one – father, uncle, grandfather – has been killed and henceforth he is on his own.
But as prevalent as the raw hurt is, hope springs forth in the unlikeliest of settings. Surrounded by a scene of utter devastation in the middle of a piece of waste ground, a breast-feeding mother squats to read intently a piece of paper that perhaps promises peace and prosperity for her child; elsewhere a barefoot adolescent man walks among pigeons, feeding them as he might in Trafalgar Square (another place but not another time).
The engagement Schofield sees is both in the vibrancy of the people and the empathy Kash has with them – engaged and engaging. A group of boys plays cricket (the same as they do the world over); on numerous occasions children connect shyly, unaffectedly with the camera – one boy doing so while learning his lessons in a makeshift schoolroom.
It is in these every day events in extraordinary circumstances that we see the people’s spirit and resolve, enduring pain and hardship but never giving up on the hope that a better future will be their children’s due.