Andrew M.H. Alexander

Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Province
28 December 2014

Hello from Kashmir—a land trapped in grayscale. The valley is covered in thick, thick fog, and so there are no colors, and no sharp lines—just endless blurry gray. On every street corner are soldiers with AK-47s, and coils of barbed wire tangled up like denatured proteins. The city has a universal 6 AM alarm clock: the morning call to prayer. There’s no alcohol, anywhere, but in the park old men with hookahs sit and smoke hash. Monkeys and feral dogs roam the streets, fearful of humans. The men all wear long gray woolen cloaks, under which they carry a wicker/clay pot full of burning coals—personal, portable heaters. They bring them even inside and no one worries about carbon monoxide poisoning. I’m staying on a houseboat with a Kashmiri family with an eight-year-old son who speaks perfect English and is adorable.