Mashrafiya, derived from the verb shrafa, means to overlook or to observe. A mashrabiya is a window: one that projects outwards from the house, is enclosed with carved wood latticework, located on the second floor or higher, often lined with stained glass. On being asked about the significance of windows, a young Kashmiri theatre artist had once replied that they don't keep windows. There are windows yes, in the sense that all houses have windows, but their houses don't keep windows anymore. Over the last three decades, the deafening sound of shootings, guns, and bombings smashed their windows so often, that they stopped replacing the glass years ago. The stained glass instead gave way to rags, scraps, shreds, frayed clothes, old tablecloth, bullet-holed curtains, newspaper, and occasionally, bloodstained garments of family members killed suddenly by a stray bullet, stretched tensely across all windows.
A window for this young man was not a place to observe the world from, not one where the nature of modesty and imagination were considered, not even a divine break in the wall for light to pierce through. For him, a window was not a view to the world outside, but an agonising reminder of what's left of the house. He tried hard but couldn't ever bring himself to accept windows for what they are. He gathered a great number of broken windows of all kind, and hemmed them, hemming in a memory of an explosion. Today, on Eid, when all windows in Kashmir, and to Kashmir, are shut more than ever before, his work, created as part of a lecture I took several years ago, resonates with an even deeper lament.