Eyes to the analogsIt has been six months since I returned to the U.S. from India, and I’m  still feeling her irresistible and at times overwhelming pull… India never really leaves my mind. The experiences I accrued while traveling there, the people I got to meet and all the reflections and conclusions I’m coming too… leave me in a whirlwind of thoughts and conversations about how to share these far away stories, so inextricably linked to my own.  And, before too much time passes and life gets too busy, I have to do some followup on Kashmir…

So, I’m about to publish The Kashmir Analogs on The Grotto. The Kashmir Analogs are a series of stories, photographs and reflections on Kashmir as a place as well as a People. This my attempt at lending a thin slice of insight into the story of Kashmir… And Kashmir is not really even a part of India…The Kashmir valley sits at the confluence of three of our planet’s largest and longest standing civilizations. A place where not only the Mesopotamic roots of the Near-East, collide with the vibrant lineages of the Indian sub-continent, but where these two forces are compounded by the rich and diverse traditions East-Asiatic peoples…

The Kashmir Valley sits at the confluence of these three rich traditions. This valley is also likely the largest, and most fertile valley in The Great Himalayan Range. Every good that has been traded over the Silk Road… between the ancient Mediterranean city-states to east Asia … It all passed and continues to pass through Kashmir… These millenniums of cultural-exchange and trade have cultivated a rich, diverse and colorful fusion, of religion, thought, artistry…. and honestly… the beautiful Kashmiri people themselves.

This coming-together of peoples, and the prosperous nature of the Kashmir Valley itself, led to it being apply dubbed, Paradise… And although it may be true Paradise, since the end of World War II, Kashmir has been the epicenter of one of the longest standing and most violent conflicts in modern history… the Kashmiri’s say, “every day it burns…

Due to this shallow-yet-complex conflict, and the nature of work we were doing there, I could not blog freely about my experiences in Kashmir. Although I never felt in danger, my travel partner and I, agreed it best not to post too much content on the web while we were working. My partner, Nelson Guda and I, were working on a segment of his most recent work, The Enemies Project.

Traveling and working with Nelson on  The Enemies Project was a an amazing experience. If not for him, I would not have had the opportunity to meet all these amazing people, or partake in these incredible experiences.

– Nelson Guda –
Working on the Enemies Project Srinagar, Kashmir

Although in some ways, my friend’s project –The Enemies Project – could be seen as photo journalism, it is not… and, The Enemies Project is actually about peace. Nelson is an artist, that for the last few years, has been traveling the world, photographing people from opposing sides of conflict.  His mission, has been to invite people from opposing sides of religious, ethnic or political conflict, to come together in the same room or setting – and be photographed… together.

And through this, gain insight on how people move from violent cycles, to peaceful one’s

The situations, the meetings and the pictures may be somewhat journalistic, but Nelson’s response will be very different. Much deeper, more primal… and esoteric… I am intrigued to see what he will do with so much content… So many faces, places, names and dialogs…

Traveling with Nelson and the intention to gather stories, sentiments, and feelings of a people, to re-live and embody them through art, to put it in a few words… was a truly life-changing experience.

I owe him a huge thank you for making The Kashmir Analogs possible…

For more info on what Nelson is doing and The Enemies Project, dive in at:

http://enemiesproject.com/

To read more about my experiences in Kashmir, check back in to The Grotto next week for Part I of The Kashmir Analogs.

Stay tuned,

Alex