Kashmir’s hasn’t been safe to visit for decades. There has often been unexpected flair ups between the Indian and Pakistani governments, and now that the Indian army stalks the streets, I would never return. But when I travelled north from Jaipur to Jammu and then headed north, all was quiet on the northern front.
But the journey was a never to be forgotten trip. Firstly, the driver pulled up in some unknown town (possibly Banihal) where locals hovered near the bus exit, desperate for a sale. All I wanted was a bathroom. When I asked where I could find one, someone escorted me twenty metres from the bus stand to the “women’s”. A make shift wall with a gap at the bottom was constructed over a ten square metre dirt floor and I stared dumbfounded as women squatted in corners. Ah well, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
Back on the bus, the driver careered up the steep mountains that dropped at a frightening angle hundreds of metres below. The Sikh speedster was either trying to break a record or had a hot date waiting for him in Srinagar. We swayed from one side of the bus to the other gripping the seat, otherwise we would have found ourselves flat on our backs in the isle. I couldn’t admire the scenic vista from the bus window because each time my body was squeezed against the bus with a sharp turn, my eyes travelled to the valley below and I imagined we’d end up down there.
How we survived the ordeal, I don’t know because there were no guard rails along the edge of the road to prevent transport from toppling at that time, but we did arrive in Srinagar—shattered and shaking, but in one piece.
Featured image courtesy: Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons