It was December 2019. I had planned my roadmap for the year twenty-twenty. The roadmap consisted of numerous objectives and goals. One among them was to become a research scholar; and, fortunately, it came true. But, unfortunately, since the beginning of 20-20, we began facing the novel coronavirus. Everything started to be online and so was the case with my research work. With the passage of time we felt that in reality nothing was going to be achieved by the online work. We demanded offline coursework but it was not a matter for us to decide. Now it was time to plan a journey to Rajouri.
The day before I left, I shared the plan with my mentors and in the meantime, Sonum Lotus, Director of the Meteorological Department J&K, predicted snowfall in the next two days. So the journey began in a haphazard manner and I left early in the morning for the notorious NH-44, especially dangerous in the winter season. Gratefully, we reached Jammu and all of us “musafirs” breathed a sigh of relief.
The next journey was on a road that kept turning narrower, bumpy and rough. Mounting over mountains, it kept taking steep curves. Trees, countless in number, lay cut all along the way as if sacrificed for the Mughal Road. Mountains, too, appeared wounded, carved out for roads. Peering out from the window seat, I noticed the steepness below that is more than enough to scare you but then the excitement defeats it. And every single turn provides you with a magnificently splendid view. Then the roads become rocky, and bulldozers become a common sight busy clearing the roads of the landslides that damage them every winter. Expanses of moraines dot the roads at regular intervals below the snowbound areas, where once moved mighty glaciers. One doesn’t notice the altitude change so much but the trail climbs gradually the whole way. You will notice that the trees have begun to disappear, giving way to meadows.
The pastures and the meadows offer diverse shades of green. The splendour of snow-capped peaks forming the backdrop enchants everyone. The place is just too perfect for camping. Stepping out, the cool breeze sweeps across one’s face. I wanted to have wings to fly like the falcon, soaring over hills to catch a ‘bird’s-eye’ view.
The clouds began to descend and the musical effect of patter of rain started robbing the silence of the place, so far away from the urban cacophony. Once the clouds flew away, walking around I felt the mountains and listened to the sound of silence. A therapy for tired eyes, the scene was. I gawked around.
Climbing over the ‘not so steep’ higher meadows was a test for anyone whose muscles had atrophied with city life. But the landscape was so captivating that one forgot the aching legs and the bursting lungs. Breathing became a little difficult, especially with chilly winds sweeping across your face. And the ice-cold water was enough to knock away your senses.
Here the culture, the dialect, the way of living was unique. People were so loving and cooperating, humble, submissive and supportive. I for the first time was in a place which was totally strange for me. But I felt more comfort here than at my native place. Such was the nature of people here. No one even liked to fence their premises. The infrastructure was so well-off that even the outer-rung of the village possessed a pucca house. Many of the nomads themselves had opened shops to earn a living, selling all kinds of stuff from plastic-packaged items to cigarettes, beedis and tobacco. Even Lipton Tea prepared on LPG – a must at that altitude. Still, thousands of people come only to adulterate it; snack-packs lay here and there, plastic rags all over the place. Setting a few ‘Use Me’ dustbins will work wonders. The waste can later be collected to be decomposed at some faraway place. “Namkeen chai” in a clay cup with sattu was the specialty here. It was delectable. The taste cannot be expressed in words. One can only experience it by planning a trip to Rajouri.
—The writer is a research scholar. [email protected]