Up, far above from the hassle and the noise of our polluted cities-where people are busy at being busy and no one cares what the others do, yet care a lot about what they think-above and away from all the empty, barren and discouraging surroundings, I found myself the closest to heaven that I have ever been.
I was in a place which had more colors then I could imagine, more peace then I had ever witnessed. It had a solitude that beckoned my tired soul, an eery feel that added a bittersweet touch to it and a loneliness that left me rejuvenated.
Here I met people that weren’t shallow nor fake, who didn’t care about my background or how much money I had. They just welcomed me into their private paradise and, while charming me with their hospitality, they let me quietly steal a piece of it and lock it into my memories from where I have often revisited those fairy meadows, those blue skies, those green valleys and, as the rush of the meandering rivers resounds along the chirp of the mountain birds in my mind and as I go through the shots my eyes took, reliving the trip, I am taken back to the place that strangely felt more like home then any place ever had.
This place, that I am ranting on and on about, it is in the Southern mountain ranges of Kashmir. I visited it last year on a whim. A last minute plan with my family as we enjoyed the my brother’s visit to us.
My family still teases me how I was the most opposed to the plan and yet I was the one most reluctant to come back from our quaint cottage high atop the mountain. The gorgeous, enticing cottage. They are right, but they don’t realize that I didn’t fall in love with the place just because I enjoyed it’s numerous sceneries nor was it only their presence that has imprinted the sounds, the smells, the feel of the place in my brain for an infinity. Rather it’s what it touched inside my heart, the mark it left on it, the connection it made with me which made me fall for it.
Far from the worldly pleasures, amongs the thatched roof houses, the terraced fields, the herdsmen’s quite banter and the wild horses, far from facilities like wi-fi and Ben and Jerry’s, I lost my heart.
And I lost it eternally.
Maybe it happened when I stood with my dad, hearing a local herdsman’s mythical stories about wild animals or maybe it happened while I sat by the lake, the lack of light in the too quite night covering it with a black shawl, misguiding in its depths and it’s safety while the dark mountains rose around it menacingly, majestically, proudly. Maybe it was when I ran around the fields surrounding our cottage in the pouring rain, while the clouds seemed to walk around us and my niece tried to catch up with me. Yet, it could as easily have been any of the other big and small moments I had there with my family that made it happen.
So I don’t know the when and the exact how, but this I know, that somewhere between trekking in the ranges of the Kashmir mountains to drinking coffee on a military base camp, I fell so hard for the echoing valleys and the piercing mountains that I still dream about the place. Still dream about going back to it.
And I will.
I remember as clearly as if it was just yesterday, how I had stood at the bridge on the lake, the two of them embracing each other so lovingly that the water passed at certain points partially above the surface of the steady bridge as it crossed from one side to the other. It felt humbling, the water spreading around me, and yet beautiful.
The last day of our stay, I had sat in the veranda which lead to the pathway going down to the water. I had sat there drinking coffee and watching the sunset, hearing the soft murmur of the mountain wind, smelling the distinct smell of dusk native to water bodies and memorizing the colors of the sky, the water and the far off sound of kids’ joy as they came back home with families, ready to be tucked in after a hard day at work. I wondered what the locals would do now. Would the mothers hover around their kids while their fathers made preparations to keep them safe and warm through the night? Or would they all gather around a large bonfire, the friends catching up on each other’s day, the fathers discussing politics, the kids exhausting out the last of their energies and the young girls and boys flirting.
I didn’t find the answers, and the charm in this case was the mystery, so I let it be as we braved a walk out into the cold, dark night, shivering at the howls or rustles we heard in the trees, and then laughing at each other. At the end of the week, when we finally said our goodbyes, to the people we had come across there, to the trails we had adventured on and the horses we had ridden on, we all drove away with a heavy heart and yet a ligher disposition.
The closeness to nature, the greenery, the peace had returned our calm, helped us attain our peace. Revitalized and rejuvenated us.
So, we bid adieu, but we didnt say goodbye. We all knew we had be back.