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 experienced on 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 the 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 history and even though ghosts of Kashmir’s political history stare back at me during Friday protests, funeral marches, and the occasional insurgent encounter, I try to fade out these issues and focus my attention on subtle aspects like unfolding scenes of daily life, static-ness of objects, changing seasons and moments that precipitate childhood memories. In doing so, for selfish reasons I am attempting to understand ‘Kashmir-i-yat’, the essence of being a Kashmiri.
The focus and approach in ‘Wish you live long’ evolved with time and eventually branched out into three broad themes: On going home, anonymous portraits collected from the Line of Control, and the family album.

Born in 1981, I grew up in a quaint neighborhood of Kathmandu where my family continues to reside after they moved here from Kashmir in the late seventies. In 2004, I started off with a basic course in photography from Triveni Kala Sangam in New Delhi, interned at American photographer Thomas Kelly’s studio in Kathmandu and went on to pursue the Documentary & Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography in New York. I’ve been working as a freelance photographer since 2007 and traveled extensively, covering the conflict in Afghanistan, Bhutan’s first election, impact of rising oceans in Bangladesh, and a wide range of stories in India and Nepal. Some of my clients include Time, Forbes, Bloomberg, Le Monde, Vanity Fair, La Repubblica, GUP, GQ, and UNICEF. Over the past six years, I’ve been working on a long form personal narrative about my motherland — Kashmir. In February 2017, ‘Witness,’ a collaborative book comprising nine Kashmiri photographers was released. The book has won several design awards this year including making it to the New York Times magazine’s top ten photo books of the year 2017.