The Country Without a Post Office
A black dog was ferociously tearing into the flesh of a dead sheep tossed onto the banks of Srinagar by the floods in their unfeeling fury. The Jhelum River had turned black and was omnipresent, like some ghost that had walked out of the night. Darkness had descended on the people of this erstwhile paradise.
In September 2014, the historically troubled State of Jammu & Kashmir in the northwestern corner of India was affected a major flood. An estimated 1.9 million people were affected. Disturbance, a result of the cumulative wounds bestowed upon the valley once more became evident.
A persecuted man cannot survive without an unshakeable faith in the correctness of his choice,’ wrote the Polish war correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski in his book Shah of Shahs. He further wrote, ‘They draw their spiritual strength from their faith in the Awaited One, they live and die for the faith. This is the simple human longing of a wronged, suffering community that finds hope, and above all, its sense of life, in that idea.’
People were moving around on horse-driven carts, families sailing through streams on their boats, ducks swimming around, people without homes yet inviting others for a cup of tea, they were reminiscent of a long lost world. ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ attempts to show this lost world confounded by displacement- loss and grief, and yet holding on to the edge of grace—an ambivalent duality of emotions the people of J&K felt and shared at that point in time. Though much was lost, they somewhere deeply aspired to move on and transit into another world holding onto their faith—a world where things would be better, with their hearts set on a journey in search of a new home, a better peaceful life.
Post Script: *1 This project title is taken from the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali's book 'The Country Without a Post Office’.
*2 Ducks and swans are generally thought to be symbols of freedom. They can walk on earth, swim in water and soar into the sky, when they so wish to. Many cultures believe that they are a symbol of eternal life-- link between heaven and earth.