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In Pictures: Juxtaposition of Jhelum—Kashmir’s River of Life

In Pictures: Juxtaposition of Jhelum—Kashmir’s River of Life

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They may be singing songs on its springiness, but Jhelum is gradually changing its course in Kashmir. And much of that change has to do with the reflection of times.


Anger that exploded on its banks in the fall of 2014 is still visible in the form of the stonewashed signs and symbols. That fury of the last decade has thawed under the shade and shadow of the prying eyes making hipsters of yesterday hunchbacks of today. 

But the poetic romance in the “country without post office” survives, as the bund of Jhelum remains “the ghat of the only world” for a new bunch of bards and bandmasters.

However, the river whose fountainhead lies in southern Kashmir is no longer as lyrical as the crown-chosen wordsmiths would describe it in their trove of travelogues. With its changing course, the river on whose banks the epic Battle of Hydaspes was once fought is now facing an existential crisis. 

In this miasma of melancholy created by the rings of military coils, the river is quietly bridging the partition gulf by passing from here and there.

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Before reaching Zero Bridge, the river meanders around 72 kilometres from Verinag and passes by the Indian military cantonment area before meeting the first of seven iconic bridges of Kashmir.

Some say the bridge is named after a contractor who was ‘zorr’ (deaf), but there’s some other story to it as well. 

Jhelum, many say, proceeding towards Amira Kadal—the first and the oldest bridge in Srinagar—itself makes it a Zero bridge. But these are all stories in the city of chronicles, where now history and time runs parallel to each other. 

Over the years, the broadcasting bridge, as the ‘castoff crew’ calls it, has become the hangout for love birds, creative creatures, wannabe writers and roaming sightseers. They often come for a meet and to enjoy the view from one of the serene sites in Srinagar.

Flowing under the bridge, the murky water passes by the wall of the writing. The creative expression in the form of graffiti has elapsed in the capital under a certain shift. What has remained is either a counter countenance or oblivion of what once was popular culture.

At the gates where a buddy of ‘the bard of the bund’ once saw stacks of unread postcards, the “hawks of peace” are mapping messages. But while they scrutinize, the red and black letterbox waits for a traveller, who stands in confusion to slip in the postcard of his adventure time in “paradise on earth” to his friend back home.

Nearby, they create storm in a teacup. Under a big red umbrella people, creatives of the land have found a safe haven. With his lively and charming personality, Mushtaq Chaiwoul knows the taste of the young and restive. 

A gallery of standard shops ahead reminds one of the British times when the façade was fascinating and the art was truly amazing. On the shores of Jhelum, these stores have become symbols of the times when stroll on the stretch was a class-exclusive. But now, it’s everyone’s chai jai — or simply, a cup of tea.

Down the river, the native boatmen stand anchored on the fluid surface. In the times of farcical water transport rides, these traditionalists keep the old guards intact. 

The same water of Jhelum also carries the liquid bones of cultures. In absence of watch and warden, the river has only become a big sink of Srinagar. 

And while water is losing its shimmer and superiority, the ghats have come to house junks of its olden glory. This only makes the juxtaposition of Kashmir’s river of life truly wretched.

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