In Photos: A Field Day in Kashmir

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Playtime. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

As women nourish their families and community members in open fields, the event comes alive with heartwarming farming moments.

A man in his mid-fifties takes a breather in his Budgam paddy field and lights up a smoke for some respite. It’s sowing time in Kashmir, and sweat beads glisten on Ali Mohammad’s suntanned forehead like dewdrops.

The farmer is content to be part of the activity that puts food on his family’s table. However, Ali expresses concern over the declining practice of paddy cultivation in Kashmir.

“It’s alarming because government food depots have already discontinued the subsidized ration order in the valley,” says the food grower. “Despite this grim reality, the sprawling summer sight of paddy lands is losing ground due to Kashmir’s growing cash crop pursuit.”

Slog. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

Unlike the alternatives explored by many growers over time, those living in Budgam villages still adhere to the old farm routine. Most of them prefer to keep it simple and stress-free. Sharing an immediate border with the summer capital and its increasing influx, these folk are acutely aware of the weary urban life plagued by consumerism.

Seeds. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

Growing paddy is the main source of livelihood for many in Budgam. Yet, according to farmer Shakeel Ahmad, the illusion of modern lifestyle is taking root in rural areas and diverting many from the “self-sufficient path.”

“This delusional idea of life is creating a culture of dependency,” he says. “Many growers are merely keeping symbolic farming alive by employing non-locals as their field workers. The change is bitter on many levels.”

Synergy. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

Despite their bittersweet farming experience, these growers remain grateful. The summertime showers that earlier threatened agricultural activities have finally ceased in the valley.

Many of these growers were recently seen participating in community salvation acts such as traditional turmeric-rice cooking galas and joining a procession to Nund Reshi’s abode.

Before the summer sun emerged from the cloudy skies, Gulshan was anxious about her paddy season. Her fretful state of mind was fueled by the frequent hailstorms this summer. “Most of us were uncertain about farming due to the incessant rains,” says the 55-year-old female farmer.

“Our reckless behavior towards nature is now creating conditions like climate changes and water scarcity for us. We need to course correct our actions or continue to suffer like this.”

Family. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

Every June, farmers across the valley commence paddy plantation. Following the 40-day-long seed-sowing period, plantlets are ready to be transplanted into water-filled fields.

“It’s challenging and physically demanding work,” Ali Mohammad continues. “It involves clearing debris, leveling the soil, and creating irrigation channels.”

Bud. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

The ongoing farming season involves families and creates a festive atmosphere across the fields.

“When the entire family works towards a common goal,” Ali said, “it brings a sense of joy and togetherness. Kids excitedly get dirt on their clothes and enjoy the field routine.”

Delight. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

Small children can be seen accompanying their mothers to the fields. Their giggles and laughter uplift the mood. Elders can be seen smoking hookah on the sidelines, while women ferry refreshments for their family members.

Tea. [FPK Photo/Kaisar Ali.]

As women nourish their families and community members in open fields, the event comes alive with heartwarming farming moments.

“We try to finish the farming work quickly after lunch,” Ali concludes. “Then we gather in the field to share Nun Chai before calling it a day.”

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