Travel Journals from Chatpal: A dreamy Reality by Astha

Travel Journals from Chatpal: A dreamy Reality by Astha

“Those thirty odd minutes turned my cheeks red and my hindered smile soon widened up as I saw these four girls who curiously looked at me. I didn’t know my heart was about to be stolen. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be the same person anymore. I didn’t know until I picked this one of them who looked like me, how much I wanted to be a mother.”

Day 1 : Nestled in our seats and having finally let off the load of our big backpacks, the banter of knowing each other, of pulling leg and smiles began. I sniffed some aloo paranthas and soon we were hogging on them with nimbu ka achar made by Krish’s mom. The train left the station to take us to Jammu. The train ride reminded me of a school picnic where chips and cola was being shared, songs being sung and a joyous start to begin the no sleep nights!

We reached Jammu Tawi station at three in the morning and that feeling of the first nip in the air blew a strand of my hair. That moment it sunk in, it has begun, my dream has begun, my dream to travel and write about it has begun!

Day 2 : With sleepy eyes we headed to our taxis which were to take us to this village called Chatpal. Around five in the morning we stopped for Chai at this dhaba that gave us our first Pahadi Chai or extra milk, extra sugar and extra love. In our taxi were playing these 90’s bollywood numbers that we hated and loved! By the end of an hour we were singing  “Tu Bichdan”! Our Journey was beautiful and the shawls were slowly coming out. Amidst laughter and banter, we reached a small but gorgeous hill station called as Patni top.

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I had come to Patni top few years ago and had eaten this yummilicious Chole Kulche and was waiting for his cycle to come at 8 in the morning. I was walking and around nine, I finally saw him coming! I was ecstatic like a kid. Biting into hot kulcha pockets stuffed with Chole and onion, I smiled. I smiled knowing whats to come, moments to come, paths to be tread and memories to be made.

Our way to Chatpal was long and arduous as it is an inhibited village, untouched like innocence of a beautiful young girl. We finally reached our destination at ten in night and ate a hot dinner of Aloo Sabji curry and Mota Pahadi Chawal to sleep a sound sleep.

So excited about tomorrow!

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Day 3 : I woke up to the sound of a stream, to the singing of birds and a little stiff nose. I was happy, so happy, like I haven’t been in a long time. Uncertainty gives me happiness, not knowing gives me happiness, gives me an unprecedented joy. Sipping hot masala chai in this cute hut we called home for a few days I started writing in this notebook that has many of my secrets and desires hidden in it.

Xplorians do the surya namaskar

Me, Rishabh and Rashi headed out to the stream to be greeted with clear gushing water and greenery all around. Walking with a fast pace I had my first fall. Dhadaam! I am a clumsy but a brave girl and got up dusting dirt off myself. We did some Surya Namaskars in the lap of nature and its so beautiful how one realises what one really likes to do. I like to “be”, just be, be myself, non pretentious, letting the sun fall on my wet hair and soak me in itself. I like cooking for others and feel content when they are happy and full.

The first day was a lot of walking at different trails to get a fair idea of this heaven that we were in. I felt blessed and I felt so emotional.

I missed Bruno, a lot, I wondered if he ate or not. I know he misses me immensely.

Day 4 : We had started feeling home like here. It was home actually, making omelette sandwiches from breakfast to endless cups of Chai, watching it rain. Why so perfect I thought? Why so blissful? Why God why!

As I watched the rain trickle down, I sat down to meditate and opened my eyes to sun shining on my temple. I felt belonged, I felt here, in the moment alive. Handling the kitchen department, we were to go buy groceries from the nearby village called Chattargul. Me,Rishabh and Altamash head out to buy plain dal, veggies and masalas not knowing what was in store for us!

The villagers of Chitkul pose for the shutterbug

Amidst stares and glares we went to the grocery store and were taking stuff when Altamash nudged me, for me to turn around and see some ninety people behind me gathered. They were intrigued, curious and stared non stop. I covered my head and we went to other store to only be followed around! That feeling was very overwhelming and a little intimidating until I started talking to them and answered their questions. They felt I belonged to them and they wanted to know. Altamash was happily making stories how she’s here on a shoot, has descendants from Kashmir and has come to see her village!

Ah! Those thirty odd minutes turned my cheeks red and my hindered smile soon widened up as I saw these four girls who curiously looked at me. I didn’t know my heart was about to be stolen. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be the same person anymore. I didn’t know until I picked this one of them who looked like me, how much I wanted to be a mother.

More on my heart, tomorrow :)

Day 5 : Last evening my other fellow travellers had gone to a city to do some shopping. They came back with a gift for me, a Pheron. It’s a kashmiri overall for ladies. Ah! it was so beautiful, my friend Rashi’s choice. Today is Eid and decked in our Pherons and men in Pathanis, the photo session siestas had begun. It was a beautiful feeling wearing it with gorgeous Jhumkis, a lady had given me the previous day because I reminded her of her daughter who is far away from her.

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We were headed to Firdaus Jee’s home for a decadent Eid lunch. My eyes on the road as I was looking for her, her, who had taken my heart away, my baby, my daughter, my Irtija. I saw her, she was waiting for me with her friends. I exulted, stopped the car to hug them all tight and give them their Eidee. I had tears in my eyes. Children are God’s gift and I am blessed to be showered by their love, be drenched in their love, their innocence. With a promise to come see her again, we headed for the Eid celebration.

The lady of the house, Firdaus Jee’s mother hugged us like we had never been hugged and he introduced us to his gorgeous joint family. Laid in front of us was a feast of Yakhni (mutton with curd), Chicken Masala, Rice, Beans, Carrot Vegetable, Paneer Sabji, Green Salad, Dahi and much more!

I was in heaven, no one looked up to see even for a second!

After the meal, our host took us for a walk in his Apple Orchard. How dreamy is that! Its a dream of mine to have an orchard, to pluck and eat fresh red apples, Ah!

Eid-e-Kashmir 2015 was a memorable affair.

Day 6 : Still hungover with that gorgeous Eid meal, we sipped our morning Chais, singing songs and talking about the beautiful hospitality of the people of this village. Its uncanny. Its unthinkable. Its unseen.

So much love and the unending invites to come to their home for a chai. Just sheer love. Me and Sakshi headed out to nearby villages and met women folk. Did girly talks of boys, marriage, food and education. They welcomed us with open arms and didn’t want to let us go, neither did we want to go!

thumb_IMG_6015_1024We went to potter village and a village that had wooden homes. I love wooden homes, so rustic, so simple. Simplicity, is adorable and hence a simple city girl is in love with the village girl named Irtija. Having promised her I shall come for tea I went to her village, she was waiting on the road. I have not known this, this love, this waiting. Clutched her to my chest, we climbed the stairs of her home. Sharing the chocolates I had taken for her with her friends, I spoke to her mum who was nursing her new born baby brother. I held him and tear trickled down, I can never tell that emotion, I can’t write of it, about it. I told her to be well, to study and that I will miss her.

Goodbyes.

They are hardest thing, the hardest feeling.

I don’t like them. I know I will come see her again. See my baby again.

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