On the bus to the Hazratbal Shrine, I met a University of Kashmir student from Kishtwar. He cordially invited me to the university where he also lived in the on-campus hostel. He warned me though, "One of our roommates is a tad bit radical. So, avoid getting political conversations."
His very same stern-faced roommate asked me, "So, you are a writer. What do you write about?"
"People, places, cultures, languages, cuisines, folklore, local economies and wildlife."
"You have travelled a fair bit. Tell me what do people in South America think about Kashmir and Muslims in general?"
"They are occupied in their own lives and don't really think or ask about Kashmir or Muslims. They are, to some extent, from the burdens that pull us back."
"What do you think, should we be given our long overdue freedom?" he asked without blinking.
Things were heating up. Things were about to get muddy. I rolled my sleeves and took a deep breath.
"Do you want to remain an independent country or secede into Pakistan?" I asked
"That's our choice and none of India's business."
"Have you considered all the outcomes of independence? Have you researched what happened in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda-Burundi, Czechoslovakia or is happening in Kosovo, South Sudan, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh?"
"No! We can take care of everything after we get our independence."
"How about the economics of independence? How will you survive economically as an independent country? Or, how will seceding into Pakistan affect the local economy?"
"Kahan 130 crore aur kahan 20 crore!"