Previously, 09.Ek nadhi thi
Note : this post doesn’t speak of itineary/tips of travel, rather the experiences born out of travelling through the place : Sonamarg.
I was meaning to post this from a long time, about my travel partner.
There were a dozen drafts before, innumerable improvisations to express what she means to me. Unfortunately, outcome of all those attempts turned to “not good enough”. This is one such unsatisfied attempt.
She is the reason, “I” has changed to “we” while narrating experiences.
For the sake of narrative, I will call her Mallika.
Back in September 2016, after paying respects to the fallen, while noting down epitaphs at the kargil war memorial, I saw a girl talking to an officer. Highly unlikely place and unlikely time for a girl to travel alone I thought to myself. I entered military canteen for some warmth.
“Its Friday, you wont find much transportation today. But try your luck” said the solider at the checkpoint.
There was dead silence except for the sound of strong winds.
I have thought till kargil. Beyond this point, I had no idea where to go.
I was waiting there, with a fatigued brain without a restrain. A thousand mental tragedies took place in my mind before they really happened.
There was only one Xylo left lying at the parking space. I was waiting eagerly for their onset. “get transport = leave. No transport = stay kargil” I told self.
It was Mallika’s cab. I
requested pleaded the driver if I could join their ride. “towards Leh or Srinagar. Anything works”
[short silence] driver half turned to backseat and waiting for signal from mallika over his shoulder.
A “hmm” of acceptance from the backseat.
I jumped into the front seat immediately thanking for the kind consideration, never been so happy to hear a “hmm”.
Tiger hills. Zero point. Zojilla memorial. For the remainder of the journey, I did nothing but to stare at the beautiful desert until, tea stop breaks broke the silence between us. The only adventure in this trip is sitting in a car that technically rides on the inch of the dangerous track.
While we were ascending and descending zojilla, it occured to me that we are carving around the same mountain at varying altitudes. “Zojilla or godzilla.. what is this place”, She gave a calm serious look which roughly translated to ‘one more word and I will throw you out’.
As we cautiously descended into the valley, a board read “Welcome to YHAI Sonamarg!!”. I was excited to find YHAI, since i was on a tight budget. Only to learn later that the hostel is fully booked by some college students as they were on some camp programme.
I walked into sonamarg’s little street on foot and saw JKTDC house. The moment I saw, I knew I had to stay here. Of course, who can resist this mini mansion house.
Needless to say, she was staying in the same guesthouse, just next door with a proper booking. I had learnt about this when i returned that evening from thajjias glacier road.
I was happy a moment, scared the next to meet her again.. she spoke something at those tea breaks, none of which i couldn’t even remember, even her name.
I was in a pure state of trance.. the feeling of being brought back to life for finding a transport… Never had i thought transport itself as luxury let alone the comforts in interior!
After a few stutters and stammers trying to cover up, i admitted and apologized that i didn’t pay any attention to the conversation we had earlier. She was a little taken back.
After a few minutes of talking in the middle, she said in a mocking tone
“would you even remember this?”
A comfort in the stranger valley is the least expectation I had. A wittier one is a blessing.
“Shall we have dinner together, dinner is on me”
beware what you are asking for sam [in a playful tone]
[ofcourse] I remember your name, you told your name at tiger hills.
At every opportunity she got to tease me, she did.
I kept wondering how she has no inhibitions and a least scarce of hanging out with a stranger in this quaint village. Its another story if the city was packed with tourists, but its almost the village of silence.
We got to the restaurant in the nick of time just before he was about to close and while browsing through the menu –
“so, where to next?”
seriously nowhere, I like it here for now. calm, peaceful, alone.
“lets order something. any ideas?”
I couldn’t stand those questions. Precisely att that moment because I was completely lost.
“where have you been to?”
Dal lake, Srinagar. Have you been there? you should visit… about the dal lake, about the people, about the hospitality.. about its current sad state.. and how i managed to reach kargil..
She tried to interject in the middle but poorly failed several times. Until she got her chance, she was preparing to weave a tale. She has strong bonds with Srinagar, of course.
Mallika was glad about her new company, because she gets to order more dishes without having worry about food wastage.
When we were having our dinner, one of the hotel staff sat close to us watching tv.
I asked him something casual just for the sake of having a word with him. And he responded with utmost interest. One word led to another.
Next moment, he spoke of how the fire broke out on the top floor accidentally, how the season remained denying their fair share of business/let alone profits.
I just listened in silence, she encouraging him to speak by nodding. He spoke of his mishaps, he answered himself. We were feeling sympathetic towards him. But didn’t speak of it. We spoke in silence that’s not going to do. Instead, the good things and about gushtabha preparation diverting his focus.
We came out talking about the struggles they had millitary-wise, terrain-wise, and most importantly of the greatest demon of limitation – weather.
Waving good-night, we went into our respective rooms and was dead to the world till next day morning.
I lost track of time at sonamarg. I was afraid this company could impact my self-healing-therapy of being away from crowded life and activity.
She stopped me blabbering one time saying to stay quiet,”happiness like silence”
I was in for a surprise for things she said. “Have I found my clone?“a voice within
I had the good fortune of visiting mallika when she was at work.
Her ability incredible, patience infinite.
I was so swayed, that I picked up some of her habits unknowingly and reviving my old habits of communicating in mails.
“we barely spend time to think and write to someone,
these phones promote lazy talks losing all the intensity of emotions,
when the beloved goes far away,
the distance, the longing is not felt because they are just a click away.
How great it would be, if there was no instant lazy talk options, imagine”
She kept talking staring at mountains/ eyes closed/ reading something.. i kept listening all day.
Finding a company that lets you stay -self is a blessing. I believed i was destined to reach this place, just to find this travel partner.
And this one was just a prelude to the magnificent days in south.
Its almost an year I left sonamarg for srinagar->delhi->hyderabad. But a part of me, a part of my day still roam with mallika around sonamarg. “Doing nothing”, our favourite activity.
Who should I complain to for the insanity she promotes,
who should I complain how unpredictable she gets,
and who should I thank for the mystery she is.
when I asked her last 3 lines, she answered, “Thank your hardships“.
Thank you, hardships!!