Amid death and destruction, will Maryam survive?

On a cold, snowy morning, I was walking around the banks of Jhelum in Srinagar. That’s the least a sportsman—a footballer in my case—can do in a place with no indoor training facilities during winters.

As I continued walking, I stood for a moment—stunned by the clear view in front of me. This was the first time, I noticed Maryam’s beauty. I had seen her since childhood, but I never looked at her the way I did now. Maryam had grown into a beauty.

My family talks about her, so do my neighbours and friends. She might have been the talk of the town.

Maryam – a name I gave to a beautiful Chinar (maple tree) was embroidered in a cloak of snow. This was the first winter I realized that snow-draped Chinars look more charming. I stood motionless, looking at her. She seemed a beautiful tree from heavens.

I started going to her every day, every month, every season to realize that her beauty doesn’t cease with a season.

Snow passed by. It was spring. I continued to visit to Maryam. She looked dry, in grey, yet special in presence – a feeling only loving hearts may understand. Maryam was full of depth and substance, too empty to look at, but deep in existence.

My love for her grew. I realized why our elders would always feel proud of her existence. And in this time, I became committed to her. I decided to capture Maryam in all four seasons. I was much attached to Maryam that I desperately had to wait a year to capture her transformations from one season to another. It was the most memorable wait of my life—even, more adorable than that of waiting for first love.

Like that of a bride being beautified with precious ornaments, Chinar have always been those precious ornaments that have somehow beautified Kashmir since ages, whether it be an exuberant greenery in summers, the burning sensation in autumn, the grey look in winters, that whitewashed looks in snow or the golden buds of spring. Chinars have always been an important aspect of Kashmir’s beauty and identity which has been glorified in its ethos.

I captured Maryam in all the spheres and time of her existence, but not unfortunately during night, under the open sky or under the stars because of turmoil. That remains a dream, which I want to fulfil one day—the day when I would walk freely on the streets of Kashmir without any fear.

What scares me most is the disturbing question: What will be Maryam’s fate in this misery-filled Valley—the place where death and destruction are commonplace. One such disturbing scene unfolded at TRC lately, where State cut down Maryam’s cousins. The brazen move passed me through sleepless nights.

They failed to understand that Chinars have been Kashmir’s heritage since its existence. But our existence is making this heritage die unnoticed death. Chinars of more than 150 year of age are being axed in the name of development, road-widening.

Is this a calamity that is befalling on Kashmir again in the form of flawed administration, which in pursue of material goal and contriving artificiality are cutting down these centuries old Chinar trees.

With soared heart and tearful eyes, I pray and hope, my Maryam survives for many more centuries to come, so that it will shade, sooth, please, comfort every passerby.

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