I was smart – I did not eat the sad-looking food Indian Airlines served on our flight to Srinagar on Thursday. But more importantly, as I later realised, I failed to mention my plans to Sanjeevji my photographer colleague. Food was the first thought in my head as soon as we landed, non-vegetarian of course!
My friend Hashim Hamid, who graciously agreed to be our “guide” during our stay, took us to his place for some home-cooked meal. Hashim’s mom was not expecting us, but since I’m “family”, I was served what was left from lunch – chicken curry, nadru (lotus stem cooked in some kind of spice) and radish (which I avoided). Sanjeevji, who had already eaten when we were in the air, tasted the chicken and nadru. And till the end of the day, I was reminded, repeatedly, about how good the food was, but how he could not eat much and how unfair I was.
We had come to Kashmir as part of the India Yatra project. (For those of you who do not start your day with Hindustan Times, subscribe to it TODAY to read stories filed by 30 reporters and photographers from around the country).
Our first day was not as interesting as today. Yes we visited a call centre (I’ve never been to one before), and went around the city, but travelling on a curfew day definitely beats all that. We’d made plans to travel to the outskirts of the city but undeclared curfew (I’ve never heard that term before) was imposed and our friends here discouraged us from travelling. But having a local with us gave us an advantage. Hashim managed to take us to the mental hospital in downtown Srinagar where we had an appointment with a psychiatrist (for a story). We seemed like the only ones on the road, except for the CRPF and policemen who were patrolling the streets. The area was deserted, we saw stones strewn everywhere, some huge ones too. Perhaps it is a normal sight for the locals but for Sanjeevji and I, it was something new. He whipped out his camera and his finger began working furiously. Click…click…click click click …click…there was no stopping him. We even made a 10-second stop outside the Jama Masjid for him to take pictures. I was anxious about halting there and I kept glancing about to see if anyone was headed our way, ready to pelt a stone at our car. Fortunately, we were absolutely fine. I must admit though, I was a little disappointed about not seeing any menacing faces.
We have plans to go to Sumbal tomorrow, I’ll keep you posted.