“You know what! Just open the freezer of your refrigerator and you’ll get the snow you are looking for!”, used to be the regular mocking statement my friends at the hostel made. It was not just a white layer on the ground or mere crystals of ice falling from the dreamy sky above; snow had always amused me since childhood, thanks to the movie buff in me raised in the era of Shahrukh Khan confessing his love on the mountains. For a guy born and brought up in the humid subtropical state of U.P., it was a dream to even feel the essence of it.
Early morning at the breakfast table, I overheard the lady behind blabbering, “Deeply disappointed with this time of the year, it’s a pity we did not find any snow there.” Yes, she was whining about their visit to the famous Gondola ride at Gulmarg which was next on our list.
Stumbling into our hired taxi, I headed on towards a previously hyped to now a ‘nowhere else to go-Gulmarg’ from our hotel at Srinagar. Dad got us the tickets to Phase 2 of the Gondola ride while the majority of the tourists bought tickets for Phase 1 where Phase 1 was the ride to an altitude level that had all the fun activities with restaurants and picnic spots but Phase 2 was at a higher level with lower oxygen and as the locals described it, “A waste of time & money!”
I didn’t know why Dad opted for the second phase since he had always been very parsimonious throughout life. Today was different.
The Gondola had only the four of us with Mom still hoping for some snow while I had already given up, my curious sister looking deep into the clouds as our cable car was piercing right through them, Dad was calm as he gazed down at the conifers below that now seemed infinitesimal.
Suddenly, the Gondola was tilting towards the sky piercing the huge patch of white clouds above us. My eyes refused to blink for they did not want to miss what they were not even guessing to see. What is so bad about level 2 that people refused to go? Why is everyone stuck at level 1? What is so special or scary about this altitude? Questions screaming in my head as our Gondola zipped through that last dark patch of cloud.