The love affair started tenderly: a warm hug, a lightless night, a dim lantern, the resonating trickle of streams and whispers of footfalls. I had reached Peth-Bugh tired, after two long and extremely hot journeys. The cool still air was a respite. As I stepped out of the car, a strange good feeling set in. Someone hugged me. My bags were taken. Four or five hands gently caught my wrist- some strongly holding me, responsibly; others, shyly, just touching. Some more hands slowly joined in. Someone ahead held the lantern, so I could see my feet and some more feet. There wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t any electricity and so there werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t any faces. Soon I started getting comfortable in this strange lightless, faceless walk of sounds and touches. I too caught their hands, letting down my guard – trusting them to guide me through the damp mud and unsteady planks that served as footbridges over the trickling water.
As we reached Basera-the home, gaslights were put on, some more candles and lanterns were lit and the world became a place of faces again. The magic did not dissipate. In fact, the enchantment only grew. Twenty brilliant curious faces and forty gleaming eyes slowly appeared and disappeared behind veils, curtains, doors, leaving behind them images of giggles and faint sounds of smiles.
The days that followed, went by wondering, working, observing, discussing and doing a whole lot of things in the midst of smiles and hugs and kisses. The last time when work was rewarded like this, I cannot remember. Everything seemed more integrated. It was as though the self was binding with and diluting within the larger, more comprehensive whole of the place. The sense of individuality seemed comfortably less significant. Even the heart and mind seemed to suddenly get along well. The concerns of the place seemed real and worry-deserving.
In Kashmir, there seemed to be a sense of solace and purpose in everything, even in worryingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
(The above are some impressions I put down on returning from Kashmir. I had been there in June to visit Basera-e-Tabassum. In conventional terms one would describe it as an orphanage, but I felt like a city girl visiting a long lost family in a native. It is a place for girl orphans, whose parents have been victims of the terrorism in Kashmir. Despite the seeming bitterness of their lives, these children are perhaps the most affectionate ones I have ever come across. I’m grateful I went there, perhaps some of my share of love was destined to come from a hundred children in Kashmir)