Last time when I left Kashmir for Delhi after staying for nearly a month, I was carrying no postcard images of the serene Dal Lake, the bewitching meadows of Gulmarg, the whooshing springs of Prang with me.
It was August; the valley was deep into the abyss of chaos. Kashmir was in the throes of an unimaginable crisis.
The Amarnath row had acted as a trigger to shut down the door of normalcy once again --- the door with a gleam of hope peeping in, which had opened after two decades.
It was in August this year that I landed at the Srinagar airport to be welcomed by burning tyres, curfewed streets dotted with dogs, and tense discussions inside houses.
There wasn't a moment inside our homes, inside all homes, when people discussed mundane, everyday things - the size of new refrigerators, plasma TVs, characters of soap operas and their dresses, the changing season, pollution in Dal lake.
Normalcy was dead.
There was not one normal day in Srinagar during my stay there when I would witness traffic at Lal Chowk moving with its original pace. Procession after procession, death after death, curfew after curfew. Srinagar was a ghost town.
I could see long shadows of gun toting soldiers, huge rectangular shadows of coffins filling streets. There was nothing else on the streets. Nothing.
The day I left for Delhi, I had to procure a curfew pass to secure my safe passage to the airport from my uncle's home, where I was stuck for weeks together due to curfew.
As we begin our journey across the state, there is a sense of excitement and a deeper sense of concern for the place and the people I have grown in and grown with. It might be bleak apparently, but the hope of a better tomorrow keeps me afloat.
Read more about people and places in this blog called .303 BULLET in the coming days.