We left Chatpal today, and headed to Yousmarg.
The 30km or so drive before Yousmarg looks like back to back frames of the most surreal postcards.
Far far better, actually.
But for me, today was about the 30km or so drive out of Chatpal.
Maybe it was the music in the car, maybe it was the misty morning, maybe it was the memories we all had made in the last five days here, maybe it was the simple fact that parting hurts, or maybe it was all of the above, but it blurred my vision with tears while looking out the car window.
I knew that at some point in this month long travel, I’d weep. But honestly, I never thought it’d happen so soon.
From the time I sat in the window seat of the car, I rested my torso on the door and looked out. Wholly. At the hills and the fields and the river and the sky.
Oh the sky!
I don’t remember how long I looked out the window like that but I remember that at some point, my eyes got misty and the scenery before it blurred. As ‘Zinda’ from Lootera played in the background.
Mountains have a way of breaking my heart wide open, and they have a way of stitching it back.
And I want that ache and warm joy they bring me, again and again and again.
Today was politely-asking-if-we-could-pluck-pears-from-a-tree, and Yousmarg-balloon shoot day.
Two completely different things, at completely different times of the day, and completely different locations.
The pear plucking happened in a small pear orchard where Guri, Rishabh, Sumi and I happened to stop, on a long drive.
Yes people, pear orchards!
And they’ve been apple orchards in the past five days. And walnut orchards. And apricot orchards.
Okay, I’ll stop now.
The Yousmarg balloon shoot happened at the Rolling Meadows, five minutes from the place where we were staying.
Sumi, Abhi and I walked up a few meadows, found a great spot that captured a great part of Yousmarg and decided to do the shoot there. “Shoot” because we are cool like that.
AND IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!
20 mins of pure, childlike fun. 20 mins of being absolutely in the moment. Just hand me a balloon and you’ll know what I’m talking about. And here, I even had Sumi to play with.
Yes, play. We played with the balloon. Because that’s what you do.
Our ninth day of the trip felt like we had 40 hours in the day. Not 24. 40. Because that’s how much we managed to pack in it.
And also, because time seemed to slow down.
Morning started late and lazy. The way I stuffed my face with food at breakfast, I could make an onlooker believe that I’ve been starving for the past 10 days (if you know me even a little, you’ll know I never starve. I can’t). I sat at the breakfast table, along with Abhi, Sumi and Rashi for over an hour. We kept ordering food and I kept proclaiming I love food enough to marry food and spend the rest of my life with it, because it brings me happiness like nothing else can and it seldom disappoints and it doesn’t ask for space and it keeps me very happy and now I’ve gotten carried away so I’ll stop about the food.
We had to go towards Charar-I-Sharif today to get some 3G to send data to Naim. Abhi had asked us to be ready by 2:30pm. Sumi and I got ready by 2:45, only to have Abhi come and tell us that we’ll leave by 3:30, and we eventually left by 4:30 because Abhi is punctual like that.
Sumi and I had two hours to kill and oh! We killed it like a boss. Played one song on repeat and danced and danced. At some point Abhi came and helped us make a video of being the dancey jumpy fools we were happily being. Then what? That song got stuck in our heads and Sumi, Rashi, Abhi and I heard it on repeat, on loud volume in the car, and danced spontaneously to it while Abhi made a better, more-professional-looking-since-it-was-shot-on-a-DSLR video of us dancing.
We reached Charar-I-Sharef, sent some data to Naim, ate chilly chicken and paneer cutlets at a small, cozy restaurant, got our minds blown away by the view of the dargah at sunset, and finally drove back listening to my playlist in the car.
After dinner, Altamesh Bhai had got an al fresco bonfire arranged for us. It was slightly cold outside so the fire was all the more what we needed. The sky was clear that night so we all sat around the fire looking at the stars, listening to Guri as he sang and played the guitar, and losing ourselves in our thoughts.
After a while, Sumi, Rashi and I left for a little walk, sat at a wet bench in the middle of a meadow, and shared our (slowly sinking in) disbelief at where we were and how lucky we were to be there.
We sat there for what seemed like a long time because when we got back, the bonfire was almost winding up. But before it ended we sang (and Krish rapped) an impromptu Imran Khan + Honey Singh mashup (all thanks to Krish and our never failing memory of panju lyrics). We even stood straight and sang our national anthem at some point, but that’s a story for another time.
I went to sleep rather reluctantly, and anyone who was up that night will testify that. Sumi even has it on video (thanks mate). I hugged everyone goodnight. It always gives me the best sleep.
That day of the trip felt like we had 40 hours in the day.
And I’m immensely glad for it.
Srinagar rains. They are probably as beautiful as the place is, and also have the similar underlying fierceness.
At this point let me tell you, I’ve never been a fan of the rains. I dislike rains. But today, tonight rather, I didn’t.
When we stepped out for dinner, the weather was balmy. The promenade of the Dal Lake, where we were walking, was slightly breezy. We walked to the restaurant, ate our dinner, and chatted way past we had cleared the bill.
It got a little late. If I remember correctly, we got out of the restaurant around 10:45pm. Only to realise it’s beginning to drizzle. And that the street is practically empty.
We couldn’t find a single shikara to take us back to the house boat. Shikaras don’t run when it rains. So we ran in the pouring rain to the nearest restaurant to take shelter. We got wet and we even got a little cold.
But after almost half an hour, the downpour slowed down a little, and the owner of our boat house arranged two shikaras for us. Very nice of him, because there were still small waves and ripples on the otherwise still surface of the lake, and riding a shikara can be difficult in such a time.
We sat in threes in the shikaras. And that’s when one of the most unassuming yet full moments of the trip for me began. Darkness all around as electricity was out. It was cold, we were wet and the sound of the oar dipping in and coming out of the water overpowered the sound of silence around us. It was still drizzling.
The short shikara ride felt long enough to carve itself out in my memory, and mark today as the day Srinagar rains made me like rain.
They say if your savor a moment wholly by being absolutely present in the moment, absolutely, then it lasts longer. The moment somehow lasts longer (time is a warped concept, clearly). I believe that.
The shikara ride in the light Srinagar drizzle, at The Dal that was silent and dark tonight made me like rain. Even if just for one day, or few minutes rather.
The uniqueness of that moment in the rain – the slow shikara, the darkness around, the silence, the cold wind blowing – crumpled my reluctance and resistance to like rain. And without realising, I let it.
Maybe we should let something or someone else change our mind about things we dislike. Maybe we should leave room for that kind of goodness. Not maybe, definitely.