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Poet’s Muse: Life on Other Side of Jhelum
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Poet’s Muse: Life on Other Side of Jhelum

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Life on Jhelum bund has been a cultural cradle in Kashmir capital. While one side has a distinction of being an artisan abode, the other side echoes with what resonates from across the river.

As the muezzin’s prayer pitch pierces through the rafters of rundown residences, life on Jhelum riverbank at once turns meditatively calm. 

Behind the deafening silence is the protracted plague becoming perilous with its second coming. 

And as the invisible enemy is deserting another blissful month in the valley, not many are turning up in the house of God.

While countless pray in solitude within home-walls, some weary-eyed inmates stare at the deadpan street life from windows.

These life visuals on the Jhelum riverbank make the place a chaotic but cultural cauldron, where different shades exist in cohesion.

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On one side of the river is the old city that has hosted watersheds for centuries and laid the foundation of the haven that symbolizes the course of life in the valley.

But the other side, without brandishing many signposts and the crossroads of the time, has absorbed all that came from the other side. 

And its life, full of silence, reflects the meretricious past that it has witnessed.

Grandmother’s Routine. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

An old woman sits on the other side of Jhelum at her ancestral milk shop. 

With her eyes glued on the way home, she’s expecting a family member to come and take charge. 

It’s noontime and she’s excusing a customer, so she can chitchat with the neighbours and passersby.

Towering Heritage. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

Nearby, an old vernacular house made of timber, stone and brick stands tall despite passing through the vagaries of weather and woes. 

The small windows locally called Roshandaan are not just the source of ventilation but the light and warmth of the spring sun for the residents.

That Old Grocer. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

Some distance away, an old grocer is arranging things in his rickety shop after returning from the mosque. 

A nap in the afternoon is mostly a routine in such simple looking spaces. There’re no customers to disturb during this part of the day. 



And with fasting and fret of resurgent pandemic slowing down life, the routine is only becoming sluggish.

Street Watchers. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

The sunrays aren’t easy to be looked for in the lanes and by-lanes of these densely-populated areas. 

But to sit and talk on sunny shopfronts is a favourite pastime for many like this duo.

While they talk, they look at some big house with a cantilevered balcony or Zoun Dub designed to view the moon and its trammelling reflections in the water. The very milieu makes it a cultural conversation.

The Masked Childhood. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

Heading towards her tuitions and cradling a notebook bag between her arms, a girl stops for a pleasing photo.

Since schools are shut again due to COVID-19 second wave, students have resorted to tuitions from elder cousins, or teachers in the neighbourhood.

Bare Bund. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

In this enchanting world, green grass breaking through the cracks between the stones of the stairs leads to a deserted Jhelum riverbank. 

The rectangular stones are another example of Kashmiri craftsmen whose handmade perfection still holds the ground.

Sunbeamed Window. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

Shadow of a small signature Kashmiri window, with fine carpentry, is the epitome of patience and art of the craftsmen. 

Very rarely but still such art pieces are visible in the old architecture in this part of the city.

Withering Wall. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

And then there’s this heritage house—with rusted roof, broken windows and wan-masonry—presenting the façade and feel of the good old days. 

Although the ground floor stands renovated, the upper story still carries that fading ethnic look.

Baker’s Pose. / MI Photo by Arif Nazir

In this city, smokehouses—Kandirwans or the bakeshops—have remained the centre for the political analysis and the matters of currency for decades.

The old man in the afternoon seems to evaluate the morning session, as the smoked walls add a traditional flair to his shop.

Clearly, if life on the other side of Jhelum is a poet’s muse, then the everyday character like Kandur is its rhyme and rhythm. 

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