May 31, 2008

Life Unkind

Being an army officer’s child there are certain things that you just can’t escape. One of them is visiting far out places very early in your life. Kashmir, North East, Ladakh and Pakistan Border are some of places that most army brats frequent while others can only think of going. I must be one of the few exceptions to this rule. I never visited any of these places as a child.

Finally work took me to Kashmir. A feeling of déjà vu engulfed me as soon as the plane hit the tarmac. Srinagar is like stepping back in the 1980’s. Everything about the place looks like something you left behind. The airport as expected was heavily guarded so much so that there were camouflaged bunker like things all along the airstrip. Once you get out of the airport and move towards the city you get a feeling like you have been here before or was it just me? It looked like any other town I visited as child. It was sunny but the famous hill station breeze made things more than bearable. But that happened once we got on to a bus and made our way out of the airport, which looked very much like one of some war-ravaged town like Jaffna or Gaza.

The deal with Srinagar is that it’s almost much like visiting some other country. The locals’ converse in a dialect that sounds as exotic as the surroundings. The people look at you with a particular malaise that you end up feeling that everyone’s sizing you up. Add to it the fact that I was a part of a press entourage of sorts so everywhere I went and tried speaking to the locals, they all told me to tell the world that nothing’s wrong in Kashmir. It almost sounded like some concealed under current as agreed upon by all and sundry to present a peachy picture of the joint. I must confess that on the surface everything looked fine.

Did it really?

Or was it just the army kid in who was so god damn used to having armed security performing like some state of the art satellite? Had it not been for the bulletproof vested, heavily loaded security personnel posted at every 100 meters you could have easily mistaken Kashmir for any other place in India. Yet there is a certain palpable apprehension acting as your personal background theme wherever you venture. Whatever the reason, Srinagar looks like a place that has successfully managed to sweep all its problems under the same carpets its famous for! You might get disappointed in case you went looking for the 'conflict zone' but there are a million other things that make up.

Strain your eyes or make life simpler by clicking the image.

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