The idea of going solo plus pennyless to Kashmir and Ladakh was threatening and it is in risks where lies the beautiful treasures is what I have learnt from my past experiences. This was not my first nomadic journey, but then there was a fear which initially I couldn't understand. At first I thought my life is planning to commit suicide without telling me directly and that's why I'm thinking of going to the so called land of terror and terrorism. On top of that my father expressed that he was proud of me till when I explored other regions but Kashmir will kidnap me, torture me and eat me.
I have always done what I wanted to so nothing could stop me from exploring the kindness of people from this region. I chose the month of Ramadan, not to be on the safe side (thinking nobody will harm you during those days even if they want to) but because I wrote the entrance exam at Jawaharlal Nehru University the same month. I was now free and available to travel.
I travelled till Jammu in the general ladies compartment (half leg of the journey near the toilet and other half near the door) along with other beautiful and strong women of our nation. Immediately upon reaching Jammu I realised it was the land of Vaishno Mata. I had to make a move from there because I was definitely not on a pilgrimage of categorised locations for seeking The God.
I instantly started looking for free rides and in the same speed I started getting them too. The second ride was the longest and straight till Srinagar which a cop helped me get in. He was a Muslim and threatened the driver of taking his driving licence if he didn't behave properly with me. The poor vegetable supplier cum driver swore on Allah and His fear especially during the auspicious month.
When he parted ways with me at the Srinagar border he asked another driver to drop me at a gurudwara for my night stay. That kind driver instead offered me a stay at his home in Magam-Srinagar with his family. The route to his village seemed a little creepy at night and I started making plans of jumping from the running vehicle. He sensed it and started cracking jokes about how he is going to kidnap me. Anyway as the only weapon I carry is optimism and faith, the stay at his home didn't come as a surprise. We all felt like we knew each other from before, seriously. I wonder if that happens with you too!
During the three days' stay I visited Gulmarg and the surrounding rivers and apple orchids of Magam village. After which a deal with another taxi driver transported me to Sonamarg. He also gave me a box full of red cherries plus a JnK reliance sim as a gift.
From there he arranged a free ride for me till Drass - the second coldest inhabited region of the world. The journey to Drass was unbelievably beautiful. The landscape is such that batting the eye even for a second makes you regret. Zojilla pass/ war memorial was a reminder of getting close to the infamous Kargil war zone. The driver helped to get me a stay at a doctors quarter inside Drass government hospital's compound. The pious doctor was amiable and showed the nearby villages during her daily visit for health check ups of children. This funny and hardworking woman shared the insights of living in that region in the harsh climate. Having fed me her iftar meals every evening she also enlightened me about her faith in Islam. I tried to participate in some rituals with her during those nights.
The next journey from Drass to Zanskar was unplanned and very long. In between I made a short stay at Kargil town and Kargi village (60kms from Kargil). I was falling in love with every spot in this region again and again . It seemed like I am cheating on the previous location by giving the title of the most beautiful place on earth to every next random location. Everybody in my journey warned me about not asking for the next free ride. All of them were sure I would get lost, kidnapped or raped. That thought would give me shivers at first and then my mischievous soul would laugh at them.
Zanskar is definitely the place where every body should go once in their life. The Nun Kun Pass, the Druk Pass, the turquoise lakes, endless glaciers, out of nowhere catching a glimpse of yellow fields in the dry mountains, the never ending bumpy roads and so many gompas will take your breath away. Every time I recalled that I am getting to see this away from home without any single known person and relying only on stranger's kindness it would give me goosebumps.
I lived with a local Buddhist Ladakhi family here and took part in their daily life. Their life without sufficient electricity and water supply but still energetic and joyous made me envious a little but I left on a happy note with a determined heart of living a minimalist life from then on. The move from here to Kargil village, to the wierdest night stay at Leh, to the most loving family in Nubra valley, to entry in a restricted zone of Turtuk village at the Indo -Pak border, to Dah- Hanu village where reside still the first Aryan's descendants and from there back to Delhi needs a very descriptive and lengthy wrting.
I will write more as and when I get time and zeal to escape from the university's schedule. Till then adieu!