Through the Dark Night
I write this while waiting in transit at an airport. Cliched? Much. For those who know me I am the person who loves going on trips(and aborting a few too). Me, my backpack and the ever trustworthy trolley. We have been the best of friends ever since I took on the life of a college student.
One such recent trip was to Katra, Jammu. Fun fact: your out-of-state prepaid SIMs do not work in J&K, yes that meant once I left the university(bless their WiFi) I have no cell reception and Internet(silent sob). Ostensibly it was for an academic conference, in reality it was my thirst to revisit the place my family and I did, what some may call “the road trip of a lifetime”. One car, three and half humans, 1700 KM. We went through Jammu, Patni Top, Rohtang Pass, Srinagar and finally Gulmarg.
So it was with the memory of that trip in my mind that I set out on this journey. Little did I know what was in store for me while coming back. I knew I won’t find a cab at 4 AM to go to Jammu airport. So ever the solo traveller I set out at 5 PM for Jammu, planning on staying there overnight. Caught the bus from university’s gate and grabbed the window seat. A lot had changed since my last visit. The highways were a lot smoother and wide, but what remained was the cool mountain air, and freshness that seem to blow around the Himalayas and of course, the kind attitude of the people of Jammu.
After the bus reached it’s destination(Vikram Chowk, Jammu), I was helped by a gentleman who guided me to get on J&K’s version of a mini bus that dropped me off to the airport. I lugged my luggage to the airport gate, and *drum rolls* was informed that Jammu airport is a day airport, meaning free-lodgers like myself aren’t welcomed to stay, not even camp outside the gates. Instead of letting me wander around the streets, the officers(it is a military airport) guided me to a nearby Gurudwara. There disappointment came knocking again, the Gurudwara had an open yard and only men were staying overnight, so if something were to happen to me, I’d be responsible. So we got back to where we started. That’s when years of travel training(thanks papa!) kicked in. My next flight was from Delhi, why not get another ride? I asked one of the officers to drop me off to the nearest bus stop from where I caught the earliest one to Delhi. I remained wide awake as we snaked through Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. I was completely captivated by the beautiful countryside, hooded in the dark night. These experiences can’t be planned, you need to lean into it.
Things could have gone south quickly had it not been for the ever helpful army officers stationed at Jammu airport, or the wonderful people on the bus stand who were more than accommodating when it came to seating me next to a sweet old lady. Life throws you in the midst of chaos, you are the one who need to sort it out and keep your cool. To all the women who are going to travel long distance on their own (my experience maybe too small, but I don’t shy from throwing in my $0.02), trust your gut. Trust that creepy feeling you might get when someone tries to approach with the offer of help, make firm decisions about your safety, don’t let anyone else decide what you should do.
To the regular readers of my irregular writing, I am switching to medium from Wordpress, yes I am going to write more often now that I have some inspiration. Fun fact: best way to get out of writer’s block is a good trip with no cell reception!
See ya around folks. Finally off to KGP now.