because we (me and my mother )were really terrified due to the terrible environment of violence in Kashmir we had seen in movies and used to frequently read in news but were left with no other option instead of packing our bags because he was not ready to cancel them at any cost. And in all this hustle bustle of fear and adventure, finally, the day came when we left for Delhi to depart.
We reached two hours before our flight time for security check-in and after finishing it, we were again left with one more hour to wait for boarding. My father sat on the bench with a newspaper in boarding lounge which was enough for him to spend leisure till the flight staff called us. My younger brother was enthusiastic for traveling to a new place, so he was sorting out his queries regarding new location by talking to Mom. Only I was left who had nothing to do, except roaming here and there because that time I wasn’t interested in reading even. When I came back to sit on the bench with my family, I slightly noticed the young handsome guy with greenish eyeballs was sitting opposite to us, reading the newspaper with his glances on me. After some time when the boarding started, we moved towards the flight and grabbed our seats as per the allotment. We three were in one row, while my father sat in opposite row. Coincidentally that same handsome guy got the seat in our opposite row. So amidst both of us was the aisle. Till now after so many years of that trip, I had never seen so many seats remaining vacant especially in Jet Airways flight. However, on this trip, lots of seats were vacant. As soon as we settled down, my Mom took out candies from her purse and distributed among us, my bro gave them to my father who was on the window seat of the opposite row, out of which he gave few to that guy. He liked the friendly nature of my Dad and accepted candies. Astonishingly when the flight was ready to take-off, Dad asked me if I want that window seat, as he could grab another window seat( for which he had already confirmed from Air Hostess due to vacancy) and also he didn’t know that he is going to give an opportunity to that guy to start conversation with me, otherwise, no father will do that ….. he..he
I was watching out of the window, when unexpectedly I heard a voice asking, ”Hello, If you don’t mind can we talk ?” Hesitatingly, because my parents were around us and he was a stranger firstly I was reluctant, but as there was nothing to worry about and even I was getting bored, I nodded my head in agreement, ”Yeah tell me “.And from here our one hour fifteen minutes journey started.
He: Hi, my name is Sameer, Sameer Shah and yours???
Me : Payal
He: Is this your first trip to Kashmir??
He:Oh!! I belong to Srinagar only.
Me: OK, that’s great!
He: Well I am in third year of M.B.B.S and doing it from Nagpur,and you??
Me: I am in first year of my graduation in Biotechnology.
He: Oh wow! It is having a good scope, nowadays(grinning)!
Me: Yeah, but not much in India. Well, I have a question in mind, as you belong to Srinagar, how do you people manage to live, when there is such a terrifying environment of riots, and conflicts?? I am getting goosebumps while going there as a tourist even.
He: Giggled, though my parents sent me outside Kashmir for studies, due to such a horrendous environment only, so that I may concentrate on studies, forgetting everything. But for us, these bomb blasts and firings are like crackers bursting on festivals. It’s my hometown and yet a heaven, so I can’t leave coming to this place, to my family. However, it is very much safe for tourists.
Me: Startled by what he told, but impressed by his spirit. So who all are there in your family??
He: Mine is a nuclear family with my father, mother & my younger sister Shama.
Me: OK !! Giggled (while looking outside the window).
He: Well, I found your father’s nature very friendly, as I have never seen anyone asking for anything to a stranger in flight.
Me: Yeah, he is! (grinned with a dilemma in thoughts, whether he is really impressed or just embarrassing me)
He: So where you all will be staying in Srinagar??
Me: In some hotel, whose name I don’t know.
He: Why don’t you people stay at our home. We will show your family all the popular places around.
Me: Well that would be our pleasure. But for this, you need to ask my father( which I was sure, he will never allow) because he has planned the whole trip( while staring outside from the window, as I knew my brother and mother were rolling their eyeballs on me making me weird. Might be I could stop this conversation in between, but I didn’t want that because I found him gentle and genuine.
He: I brought three boxes of oranges from Nagpur, I always bring them for my family, whenever I come for vacations, so would you like to take one??
Me: No, Thanks. We already have lots of baggage with us.
Me: Another question popped in my head and I somehow asked without giving a second thought, ”Surely you would be having any girlfriend?”
He: Guffawed!! How you are so sure??
Me: No I mean, you are a medical student with good looks, caring for strangers even, so what else any girl would desire for?
He: Ha…ha even I can ask you the same question, as you are beautiful, so do you have a boyfriend? Anyways I don’t have, because I don’t have time for it with hell burden of medical books.
Me: (with dancing heart, as I was complimented).No I don’t have. So whenever you will look for, what will be your type?
He: Though I have not set any type, but want a girl with a beautiful heart much more than her looks.
Me: (Can’t say whether the line was to impress or he really believes that, but I was impressed)Oh!! If you really think so, I must say you have a beautiful spirit.
He: Thanks! Yes, I really believe so.
Me: (Srinagar was about to come as mountains covered with layers of ice became visible)Again I started looking outside the window to enjoy the beauty of nature and the landscape seemed like a black & white sketch drawn on extreme canvas with sharp black graphite pencil. While I was totally adrift in the scenic beauty, again I heard his voice.
He: This time outside temperature would be in minus, so keep yourself covered with multiple sweaters and an overcoat. In the summertime, it turns up into the green.
Me: Ok! (simply nodded)
He: Take my number as I will be here for ten days, in case you need any help…9259……
Me: I didn’t hear him intentionally.
He: Do you have any mail id, so that sometimes I may send you the message, just as a friend?
He: (with a shock)Seriously I can’t believe that, how is it possible? You must be lying.
Me: But this is true. I am sorry.
He: I am really impressed !!
Was he or he interpreted me as a fool?? (dilemma… )
Anyways in a few minutes, we were about to land in Srinagar as per the instructions of the flight captain.
He: Hopefully will catch you somewhere in Srinagar (grinned)
Me: Let’s see!!
And the flight landed………
Me: Take care. Bye( felt quite sad because I didn’t realize how that one hour fifteen minutes had spent so fast, but anyways I had to move)
He: Bye. You too.
While we got down from flight, my father attacked me with bullets of questions……Why I was talking to him? What we were talking about? Did we exchanged numbers….and I exclaimed a big NO!!
Somehow my Mom supported me with her interruption, ”It’s fine if she was talking, she was talking in front of us and I have confidence in her”.
We arrived at the airport and reached to belt at which our luggage was loaded. While we were collecting our bags, unexpectedly Sameer came to my father and asked, ”Uncle would you like to come with us and stay at our home” ? which my father softly refused with acknowledgment of his pre-bookings of hotels etc and he left the place with a gesture of final bye.
Though I couldn’t believe that how a person can be so modest, his last humble expression had earned a lot of respect for him in my heart. I don’t know what would have happened if I had taken his number, but the turn at which I left it is unforgettable, as an alluring memoir and this trip had changed my opinion about Kashmir too. We roamed on streets of Kashmir, around Dal lake even on 26th January and there was nothing to worry about. Few of the Kashmiri locals offered us Kahwa(Kashmiri green tea flavored with cardamom and saffron) on Shikara and while we wandered around. With all my experience I have made an opinion that it’s not actually the local residents who are earning money by simple living, creating problems in Kashmir, but the separatists who don’t count themselves as Indians and the militants of other countries who have made prominence in Kashmir now.