NEW DELHI: For nearly a quarter of million Hindu migrants, who left the Kashmir valley in the early 1990s following an armed uprising, home is a green but unreachable dream mired in longing and nostalgia.
Thoughts of forsaken homeland percolate down to every aspect of the lives of the migrant Kashmiri Hindus and even in their art, says veteran sculptor Rajendra Tiku.
Tiku's exhibition of sculptures in the capital, "Metaphors in Matter", uses the near-defunct Sharda script of the Kashmiri language, to resurrect images of nostalgia and history from the valley, which he left nearly 25 years ago.
"I call my art calligraphic graffiti. The calligraphy that I use in my works is not readable - but it gives a feeling of the passage of time and the connection between the past, present and the future," Tiku told IANS.
Sharda, said the artist, was an ancient script in which the Kashmiri language was written before the advent of Islam.
"Sharda was very close to Hindi. It was used by people in the valley before the advent of the modern-day Nastaliq script, a variation of Urdu," Tiku said.
Sharda, a western Himalayan script, evolved in the ninth century from the north-western Brahmi script and remained popular as a link language between the former north-west frontier province, Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
The Sharda inscriptions throw light on the Hindu Shahi dynasty of Kabul, Ohind and Gilgit. The legends of Mahmud of Ghazni are also written in Sharda script.
"Nostalgia echoes in my work - and the script is a slice of Kashmir that has been lost forever like the millions of Hindu homes," said Tiku, one of whose works, "Sprout", a gold-gilded wood sculpture is based on Kashmiri poet Shama Kaul's poem: "Humne boyi hai apni asthiyon ki paniri- Hum Ugenge". Translated, it means, "We have sown the seedlings of our remains and we will sprout."
Sculptures like "Hearth Back Home", "My House in the Snow", "Snow Drops" or the stupa in bronze, wood, cast metal, marble, papyrus and the sacred devar stones used for carving Kashmiri deities, speak of the intense longing for the valley, renewal, forgiveness and hope.
Tiku also studies how every day streetside objects like stones, bridges and trees have become shrines on the sheer strength of faith.
"I lived in Kashmir for a long time and trained as an artist in Kashmir University. My prime concern is to create an aura around my sculptures and imbue them with strength, glitter and the hope that we may go back to Kashmir some day again," said Tiku, who now lives in Jammu.
Art in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir works within strict limitations. But it manages to survive, says Tiku. "We have very talented artists, but very few places to show and even fewer number of takers. Kashmiri art needs promotion," he said.
Some of the high-profile Kashmiri artists, who left the state during insurgency, includes Veer Munshi, Zahoor Zargar, Gokul Dembi and Pushkar Bhan.
"Metaphors in Matter" closes at Gallery Espace Dec 6.