Bengaluru: While the news from Kashmir valley is laden with tragedies, the quest for peace continues to be an elusive and uphill task.
The ‘Real Kashmir’ photography exhibition attempts to portray how sport can lay the foundation for world peace through the photographs captured by award-winning photographer Prashant Godbole, and the voice of the inspirational Afshan Ashiq.
Though Jammu and Kashmir’s beauty is breathtaking the prevailing tensions and rampant violence are potentially difficult hurdles to cross for aspiring sportsmen and sportswomen.
But this is also exactly why it is always inspiring to witness success stories. And as a photographer, the passion in such circumstances is something that Godbole has attempted to bring out.
“There was a moment during our three-day-trip to the area,” said Godbole. “Our shooting crew spotted a child playing with a football in the cold while the army men with their guns were watching on. When the ball fell to the feet of the man, he instantly began to juggle with the ball and that brought upon smiles on all our faces.”
It was an instinct that came naturally to him, when the man of a high order of life joined the child. These are precisely the sort of moments that help explain this ‘natural instinct’ to play and be free.
“Sport is the middle ground, what brings people together,” Godbole observed, referring to the underlying theme of the exhibition. “The message we want to spread is that of world peace”.
Afshan Ashiq, a monumental woman who has risen defeating these challenges, lends her opinion on sport in Kashmir. “There are a number of difficult things to deal with if you choose to take up sport as a profession. It could be family, society, or people around you as a whole.”
Afshan’s famous photograph of her pelting stones at security forces in Srinagar during a street protest was iconic. Because at a certain time, it represented frustration of the people of the land. Only a few years later she became a professional football player and at 24 years of age, she has a long career ahead of her. She says Hope Solo, the American football icon, is her role model. Afshan has even attempted to model her game loosely around the American’s. The now captain and goalkeeper of the J&K Women’s Football team hopes that football will continue to be the entity that brings peace across her state. Building on which, that it is possible not just for the young boys, but also the girls to have their say.
“From my experience, there has to be an equal shout for both boys and girls from a younger age. There has to be a chance for a young girl aspiring to be a footballer to come out and be able to work towards her dream,” said Afshan.
When asked about how aspiring sportsmen and sportswomen deal with the harsh weather in Kashmir, Afshan’s reply fairly portrayed the character of a warrior. “When you’re that passionate about something, you’ll get through anything, even weather conditions such as this,” she said. “When other young girls from back home look up to me, I hope they say ‘if she can do it, why can’t I?’”, she beamed.
“When people see Kashmir in such a way, they will not look at the ongoing situation, but that there’s so much more. I hope that football can be the spark that Jammu and Kashmir needs”.
“I just want to play football, and I want everyone around me to be able to play whatever they choose to as well,” she ended on a personal note....