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  • Kashmiri men by and large don’t misbehave with women 

JAMMU: Making clear that a permanent solution to Kashmir problem is somewhere else, a professional photographer, Saadiya Kochar, having her roots in Jammu and Kashmir State, opines that the promotion of tourism industry, through photographs, write ups, movies, may help to restore peace momentarily.

According to her, this generates income and jobs for the youth and the engagement makes the Indian civil society realize, Kashmiris are some of the most generous, hospitable people they’ll meet.

Talking to Ajmer Alam Wani, Editor-in-Chief of JK Monitor, Saadiya said that the art helps to spread awareness and it engages the subject, the artist and the viewer into a dialogue.

At the same time she advised that the nature of photography is such, that it can also cause harm by baring the truth in a way, which can be taken out of context or can aggravate people further.

“This is where the sensitivity of the photographer comes into play. The need to tell the truth is important, the capturing of the moment is important but we have to ask ourselves, before we release anything, if a particular image will do more good or cause more harm”,  Saadiya added.

When asked how photography can help in removing the negative points about Jammu and Kashmir state, Saadiya, elaborated, “If you are working for a newspaper, you don’t have that choice- you got to capture the moment. It could be a moment where someone is pelting a stone, or an official is tying a man to a jeep”.

“Both, those photographs depict the same thing to a layman. In the eyes of the Indian civil society, the young boy who pelts the stone is disrespecting a person- who has left his family and has devoted his life to protecting the nation”.

“On the other hand, to every Kashmiri, who sees the other image, it creates a bit natural sense of fear and insecurity about their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their loved ones”.

“I think more and more photographers, film makers and artists need to get involved. Let’s start telling the good stories, the ones where the Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits live together in harmony".

“Let’s concentrate on the story of an entire village that doesn’t celebrate Eid because a Pandit brother has passed away. The story of the officials who help rescue people during the floods. That doesn’t mean we don’t ask for justice for the Kunan Poshpora incident. But we need to pick our battles”.

“All of us who frequent Jammu and Kashmir have seen the beautiful calendars that are distributed every year. If more and more people outside the state were given those calendars, it would tempt them to visit. More travellers need to go back and write about their firsthand accounts of the place. Though, I drive to Srinagar every year, I’m accompanied by an assistant or a domestic help on that drive. This year I drove from Delhi to Kashmir and back by myself as I was on a solo drive through the country. Everywhere I went, after that people kept asking me how I managed to do it and I gave the same reply- Kashmiri men by and large don’t misbehave with women”.

When asked about the difficulties that came in her way, she recalled her Kashmir visit in the year 2007,   she narrated, “actually, initially, shooting in Kashmir was hard. I remember the first time I travelled for work in 2007. The first few days were terrible, since I was unaccompanied. People were very suspicious of me. They assumed that I was a spy. But once they realised that she’s just a bit nuts, nothing else, they warmed up to me, like I did to them. After a decade, Kashmir is like a second home”.

Saadiya claimed that she is not at all ambitious. Her only real aspiration, then as well as now, is to have the freedom to do as she please, tell the stories, she want to tell, in the way that she want to tell them, without concerning herself with the dictates and trends of the market.

She too faced the difficulties that most photographers’ face-criticism, financing issues for projects, ensuring no one meddles with her work etc.

As a child shed had no special inclination towards photography. In fact, she spent more time posing in front of the camera, since her mother enjoyed making photographs of her kids.

It was only when Saadiya was learning editing at the age of 18, that she discovered her passion for photography. It gave her a certain amount of freedom, which is what she loved about it. She didn’t have to be dependant on a team to create something. Her real preparation was taming and controlling the mind. Mine is like a wild, untamed beast, which has no discipline, she still find focussing the hardest thing to do.

“I don’t have any particular goal other than someday having enough money to start a private family foundation in my brother’s name. It would take me a decade I guess”, she said.

Replying to a suggestion sought for budding photographers, Saadiya gave important tips to stick to, “Just follow your bliss but never forget the power of the medium.  Used positively, it can change the world, on the flip side; your image may just become another brick in the wall, acting as a barrier between people.

When asked how difficult is it far a girl to be a successful photographer, she mentioned, “It use to be harder being a female photographer maybe a decade ago but now we are on an even playing field with the boys. Sometimes, we even have a clear advantage- in the case of wedding photography or maternity and children photography”. 

“It is hard to break into any market but I have realized that it is only as hard as you think it is! Sometimes, men do hit on you but if you are thick skinned and have a vicious tongue like I do, you know how to manage”.

While concluding, she underlined, “Don’t let your femininity define who you are. You are more than a girl, there are many versions of you lying below the surface, that you are not aware of".

"Surround yourself with male colleagues, listen to their stories and compete with them. That’s what has worked for me. I always wanted to play it like the boys".

"In-fact, someone from my gym drove from Delhi to Rameswaram last year. His stories and photographs inspired me so much that I decide to go on a solo trip myself. I recently returned after 54 days, having driven more than 12,400 kms. I am living proof of that fact that you can do whatever a man can!"

 "Having said that, if you keep a ‘don’t mess with me or I will beat the shit out of you attitude’, you will be fine".

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