Kashmir is a tourist retreat in an occupied land. Every year, as the monsoon rolls across India, bringing with it both soaring temperatures and pounding rain, the county’s elite escape to the overwhelming beauty of the Kashmir Valley. These two realities – Kashmir as a haven for holidaymakers and a warzone for locals – remain remarkably separate, so much so that when one invades the other the effect can jar, like a jolt of absolute reality.
I read in the Cambodia Daily that Survivor has wrapped up filming on Koh Rong, in the Gulf of Thailand, so I go to see for myself. It’s July, the wet season; by midday the sky is a silvery purple that deepens until it bursts in the late afternoon. I picture a barely inhabited oasis, rugged and poised, the kind of island I mentally synthesise when in bed watching Survivor, but with the remnants of a major US game show – discarded fibreglass reproductions of Angkor devas, a neat circle of attractive stones around a pile of ash.
But for decades, palaeontologists have been trying to hose down myths around firestick farming. UNSW Associate Professor Scott Mooney, who led a 2010 study of charcoal records across Australia dating back 70,000 years, told the ABC: ‘The firesticks are definitely in the colonisers’ hands, not the original inhabitants.’ Whitefellas, he explained, have ‘imagined the past’.
There is a word I love in Italian for which there is no equivalent in English: dimenticatoio, the place for things you want to forget, or have forgotten already. You might say, for instance, that an old, cherished custom has ended up in the dimenticatoio, a concept you would likely render in English with the phrase ‘has fallen into oblivion’.
Artwork for this edition by celebrated photographer, Hoda Afshar.