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Meet Shabbir (no pic) – my Kashmir transporter, a broad shouldered, confident slick guy who wont hesitate lying and promising you things to endear you to him. His rugged looks and a smile that curls on the side of his mouth help his cause. But I liked him. Right from when I first met him, I knew he was man’s man. He would have a lot of friends, and he would be their centre.
Salman’s a striking, reserved, soft spoken, tall, good-looking boy managing a Yousmarg hotel. An artist, lost in his thoughts sometimes, a deep thinker. Every now and then, feeling the need to express. An excellent cook. I wonder if I have ever had mutton that someone made better than Salman.
Aaquib, Salman’s brother, and so different. Wanting to start his own business, and not continue in the family’s fruit line. Taking his time to open up, but then opening his heart out. Laughing like a child. So much inside him, but how much can one bottle. Both brothers taking out their Thar frantically and zooming around yousmarg market searching for me cos I hadn’t returned back to be hotel and it was dark.
And Zaid. A family boy, in love with his girlfriend, always smiling, I found myself liking him from the first time we met at his food stall in Srinagar. Every day in Srinagar, I’d walk to his stall, and we’d beam at each other, and he’d bring those delicious kebabs and we would sit across a table and chatter away.
Four Kashmiri boys. Not connected but part of the same narrative. Why? Cos they are all large hearted, generous Kashmiris who let me into their thoughts, their hearts. I close my eyes, and I can hear them invite me to their houses, ask me to have dinner with their family, smile widely as they speak to me with their eyes. Maybe each one has some angst hidden deep inside because of everything that’s happened in Kashmir, but still being nice to everyone around. Not just them, my entire one month in Kashmir, I was astounded by everyone welcoming me to their homes, even in the villages of Gurez.
The media speaks of an unsafe Kashmir, I only felt welcomed, loved and happy. I shall go back next month, and promise to see all four of you there.