When the black smoke settles down on a pile of debris, a layer of ash adds up on the remnants of memories. With each gunfight, fallen militant, funeral, a house turns into a mound of broken concrete and charcoal, underneath hiding years or decades of life. Slowly, within a few moments, remnants of life, of memories, of happiness, are stampeded over by hundreds of visitors. Amid all the chaos of looking for these remnants, a boy finds untouched death in a room, pondering how did the dead ones die. Splashed blood in a corner of a room remains what is left of a rebel’s courage. An old man passes through the corridor of a shattered house, looking through a window, which once played a spectacle of joy, a canvas of colors. After the fall, people watched the devastation shaping up into a pile of debris. Sitting distraught, muted dreamers, looked at the hundreds of feet walking past the black ashes, leaving behind an epitaph of dreams. Expressions of nothingness fall over their faces, anguished and unrequited, watching a home turned into death. In this series of photographs from various areas and period of time, The Kashmir Walla’s Sanna Irshad Mattoo, weaves a story of loss, grief, suffering, fragments of memory and collapse of people’s small worlds.
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Once the walls of this house would bear witness to the poet’s verses. The embers, with smoke clouds, brought the house down, part by part, turning the treasure of verses into a pile of ashes. The poet survived and his memories of recitation too. Now, what is left are the verses in his heart and the view of his fallen palace.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

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While the house was bearing witness to an event of war, an unfinished life, that was to weave a future, mixed with memory of loss. It became a residue while the world of a family had collapsed, for them the shattered pieces of life were now only fragments of memory.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

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What could have once been a joyful kitchen, filled with a family sitting together to break bread, was now a smoke painted walls, with leftover food as witness to the tragedy that had fallen upon the inhabitants. The contrast behind the smouldered woman and her eyes probing into the recent moments of war remained still.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

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The dead were taken away, the living visited to find untouched death. Standing still between the exploded and the unexploded, the dead and the living yet to die. It was only chaos and hope punctuating the moments after the grave loss.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

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For life is a wall of struggles and suffering, with joy and hope, here it was a wall of memorial. People visited, unrequited and anguished, to look at the faded spark of life. Who must had been here? For what did they die for? Are we alive or dead? Each fallen brick had a question in it.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

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When the war between the two sides goes up into flames, the fallen ones leave behind a sacred stained trail for the ones who are still standing firm. It becomes a reminder of presence of being, suffering of the dead and alive. The struggle, pain, fight, commitment, courage on a dusty floor turns into a monument of war.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

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As the people filled the garden, they looked for life, but found the leftovers of death. Girls, boys, women and men saw the hope of future diminishing into a frame of despair.
Photograph by Sanna Irshad Mattoo for The Kashmir Walla

kashmir, kashmir photo essay, kashmir gunfightsWhen bombs and bullets pierced through the walls and windows of the house, somewhere a two-year-old boy cried for his father, who was nowhere to be found. As the sun rose, dust settled, firemen washed off the ashes and blood from the street, the child’s father had fallen too; cold, dead. Along with the house and the men whose life ended, the boy’s life, his childhood, was perforated with suffering by the embers of war.