In younger days I spent many a late summer wandering the lofty wildernesses that ring the Kashmir Valley on all sides. The outbreak of militancy at the end of the eighties put paid to those adventures, never to be resumed again.
During those glorious years my mother would ask me why I wanted to be ‘paharon mein darbadar‘ on my birthdays (Mid-August). I wish I knew about Gordon Duff then so I could explain my desire in his words:
here among the great mountains
nothing but the grandeur of the world remains.
heaven may not be ‘up there’ but there is no doubt
that here one is in touch with the infinite.
one has only to reach out to touch the great beyond.
the smallness of men’s minds is forgotten, the shallowness of
their ways, the pettiness of so much that surrounds them.
there is nothing tawdry in the world of the high peaks.
dekhna taqreer ki lazzat ki jo us ne kaha,
main ne ye jaana ki goya ye bhi mere dil mein hai
Well better late than never.
Gordon Duff (1921-2001) was born in 1921 in Glasgow, Scotland. During the Second World War from 1943-1945 he served with the 31 RAF Squadron in India. In the post war years he returned to Glasgow, got married and immigrated to New Zealand in 1953.
Gordon Duff kept detailed diaries and took many photos of his time overseas (India, Burma, Indonesia and Singapore) which were hidden till he passed away – probably because people wanted to forget the war when they got home.
His daughter Marjory Lewis has generously shared his unseen photographs of Kashmir as it was in 1944, some of which are posted here for your viewing pleasure:
Let us raise a toast to the photography of Gordon Duff and the generosity of Marjory Lewis.
Noon chai is the strongest spirit that I imbibe, so here goes.
Three cheers for Gordon Duff.