The Russian Poplars
With a 10 o'clock flight and a baby to be put in the cargo, I could not sleep. Had to reach before three hours for the cargo compliances. Also, the thought of the mountains and the rivers kept me awake. And bam goes the alarm, it's 5 already and without a wink of sleep, I embrace upon the day. A beautiful morning (being a late riser, I hardly get to see the sun rising on the horizon), and a rush of feelings. How will my fur baby adjust in the cargo, have I forgotten to pack something important, will I remember to switch off the lights, the geyser, and a hundred other frolicking questions. Reached the airport, the fur-ball goes to the cargo and I wait in the line to check-in with a bag full of mixed emotions. Leaving behind the city that I had slowly begun to like and also the two people who are my support system. How could I manage without them? Leaving behind my staggering start-up was on my mind constantly as well. Uncertainties were on the cards. For how many days, weeks or months would I have to be away from the little world I had managed to put up with my friend for life, my other half and my baby was yet unknown to me. But it looks like I have managed very well with the precariousness that life has offered me or one can say that I have gotten used to the unpredictability. Either way, it has only made me strong, or so I believe.
Then I see the snow clad mountains from my seat, the worries start to melt. A magnificent golden, yellow and white. The sight was breathtaking. Alas, I see the heaven on earth I have been hearing about since I can remember. On reaching the airport, I found the person who was supposed to drive me around the place. I was travelling to the north western part of the region and that would be a good two hours drive from the capital. I was also advised to reach the destination at daylight. Now the next task was to wait for my hyperactive baby. He was arriving in the cargo section and I had to be there before he starts creating a commotion. I see him from a distance, he looked alarmed in an unknown periphery and then he starts wagging his tail vigorously, as he sees me approaching. Together we get into the car and start our journey for the next phase.
I have been to countless places with hills and valleys but nothing can prepare you for what Kashmir has to offer. As I drove down the roads, I had a feeling that a little piece of my heart will stay here forever. The highway was lined with tall trees. Each one of them was in perfect symmetry, just like a painting by Monet. I thought these were the famous Kashmiri Chinar but the driver corrected me, I found out that these were Russian Poplars. The serene and tranquil atmosphere did not give away the turmoil and anguish that were in the hearts of the millions of Kashmiris. My baby seemed to enjoy the ride too. He was not his usual restless self. After the fiery summer of Delhi, the breezy ride turned out to be a respite for him and he appeared calm and happy. I was glad. My destination was a few minutes away and the anticipation made me nervous. The sun was on the horizon and slowly the sky changed colour and it was a vibrant yellowish gold. The Poplars were swaying and the clouds were getting darker. It reminded me of the sudden bouts of thunder we would encounter back home, in Assam. When I was little, this peculiar yellow sky would leave me bewildered. I would often go out and wait for the drizzle to start. The car halted with a jerk and I was again in the present, in Kashmir.
I stepped out and it was drizzling. At last, I was at the place that would be my home for the next few days or weeks or months, I did not know that yet. A tall man with a thick moustache came for my luggage. I helped him up the stairs with the leash on one hand and a bag on the other. He opened the door and left me with the fur-baby and the suitcases. I liked the yellow paint on the walls and the green carpet sprawled all over the room, it looked cosy. I pulled the curtains and opened the window, the view took my breath away. Just across my room was the beautiful Jhelum flowing, tiny colourful houses on the bank of the river and hills in the background, better than I imagined.