The place is also known for its scenic views and people visit the area to spend quality time with their partners. Visitors say even the breezes of Kashmir spells out romantic words. But the beauty of land didn’t help my parents to have a romantic relationship after a few years of their marriage.
My mom Andrea Johan came to Kashmir with her friends from Egypt to spend holidays. Here, she met my dad Sidrak Gulfam at her rest house. Soon they fell in love, but the family of my dad was not OK with their relationship as my mom was not from their tribe.
On the other hand, my paternal grandparents had objection with the economic status of my dad`s family and with the culture of Kashmir. As my parents were in love so they choose each other over everything else. There was respect, romance, love and affection between them. When I was born both families met each other and everything started to flourish.
But soon their love story took a change, I saw my parents fighting with each other for the various small things. Their bond soon turned into an abusive relationship, they use to throw things, shout and blame each other.
Soon the breezes stop chanting love songs in their ears and they both decided for divorce.
Though I was not happy with daily flights between my parents; at least I had my parents together. My paternal family always stood with me. Their love used to give me strength. My school friends and other community people were there to emotionally support me. And Above all, the beauty of the valley was there to soothe my mind and soul.
One day I heard that my parents are taking a divorce and my mom will take me to Egypt with her. I was not happy, on one hand, I wanted my father in my life too and on the other hand, I never wanted to leave Kashmir.
I was 12 when the court allowed my mom to take me to Egypt. I heard that my dad is no more allowed to meet me until I turn 18. My mom was happy but I was not. I felt like a fish without water. My whole life was turning into pieces.
The pain of a broken family was eating me from inside. Over that, I had to leave my family, friends and the captivating valley of Kashmir. I still remember the time when my mom asked me to say Good Bye to all the people around me and to the valley. I felt like some is drowning me in deep water. My heart was sinking and soon I left everybody behind.
My mom thought that the pain is just temporary and soon I will cope up but it was not that easy for me.
Life in Egypt was way too different, I started my school here but the pain never let me focus on studies. Soon I left school and started spending most of my time in my room. I used to cry whole night and there was nothing good for me in the day time too.
I never felt connected to the land of Egypt, its people and even with my mom. Slowly I lost 12kg weight and turned in to a skinny pop. I had dark eyes, messed up hairs, and a lost mind. Only the pictures of Kashmir were not letting me die. I spend more than three months in this condition.
One day my mom came into my room and said my paternal family and friends want to talk to me. That phone call was like a bud in a barren land. I started talking to my people, it filled my heart with flowers. I felt like being into the valley of Kashmir again.
I told my friends that I spend most of the time crying for them. Their pictures are everything to me. My dad was listening to all that from behind and he gave me a suggestion to restore all the old photos. He said, “create your own world around you so that you can feel life inside your body.”
I never knew what he meant by restoring the photos. So I asked my mom about it –that was the very first time when I actually talked to her after coming to Egypt. She said that’s an art and since I am not even going to school I should go somewhere to learn it.
I started my search about Photo Retouching and Restoration studios and shortlisted a few best artists to learn the technique. I somehow realized that life is not just being inside the room, crying and watching Kashmir photos.
I traveled a few miles to meet the artist from Kareem Studio, as I reached there I came to know that my mentor only speaks Arabic. The communication was almost impossible but I badly wanted to learn from him. So I joined basic Arabic classes for two months and after completion of my course, I came back to Kareem Studio.
I learned all the techniques of professional and digital photo restoration, photo editing and photo retouching. After six months I was a champion but the love of Kashmir and emptiness was still there in my heart.
So I created a social media page for all the people of Egypt. My page offers Photo Retouching and Restoration services at very minimum cost to all those who want to save their memories. I recreate a glimpse of their best moments through my art. To show my love and to soothe my soul I offer free services to people who have Kashmir photos. In this way, I collected hundreds of original pictures of Kashmir and my people.
Soon I started feeling connected to Egypt as well. Somehow it healed me, I started to smile again. When I turned 18 I visited Kashmir again. But this time it was easy to come back to Egypt.
That’s how I combat my grief and depression. That’s how I found a way to connect with my land without being there. That’s how I created my Kashmir while living in Egypt.