Monsoons never cross the mountains

In Kashmir where the year

has four clear seasons, my mother

spoke of her childhood

in the plains of Lucknow, and

of that season in itself,

the monsoon, when Krishna’s

flute is heard on the shores

of the Jamuna.

While children run out

into the alleys, soaking

their utter summer,

messages pass between lovers.

Heer and Ranjha and others

of legends, their love forbidden,

burned incense all night,

waiting for answers. My mother

hummed Heer’s lament

but never told me if she

also burned sticks

of jasmine that, dying,

kept raising soft necks

of ash. I imagined

each neck leaning

on the humid air. She only

said: The monsoons never cross

the mountains into Kashmir.

Agha Shahid Ali

A disputed land between India and Pakistan since 1947, Kashmir is today one of the most militarized zones in the world.

Soon after gaining independence from the British Empire, the two countries fought a war over Kashmir until the end of 1948. In the same year, the United Nations Security Council adopted the Resolution 47, urging the preparation of a plebiscite in order to let the Kashmiri people decide whether to join India or Pakistan.

No such plebiscite has ever been held.

Since the Nineties, Kashmir has been witnessing various political uprising against the Indian administration. Every time the Kashmiri people fought for azadi (“freedom”, in Urdu), their struggle has been silenced with blood.

Despite the unpredictable new season of protests, repression and martyrs, the situation has still not changed. The systematic violation of human rights perpetrated by Indian security forces has filled the hearts of Kashmiri men and women with disillusionment, resentment and sorrow.

It’s a collective grief pushing towards peculiar religious practices, in a desperate search for respite: the veneration of those who sacrificed their lives for the pursuit of azadi becomes the prosecution of the popular cult of dead Sufi saints.

“Monsoons never cross the mountains” is a visual journey through the struggle of the Kashmiri people, trapped in an endless season of sorrow while waiting for the spring of azadi. It is an attempt to depict the emotional landscape of the valley of Kashmir through the eyes of children, entangled in this cycle from the very beginning of their life.

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Monsoons never cross the mountains by Camillo Pasquarelli

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