The 4g may not work, till the Jio fibre isn’t installed in every house in Kashmir. But don’t think, that stops the grapevine and the rapid flow of information. Last night I received a call from the ex assistant. ‘ You went to shoot the Sunday market?’ he asked. ‘You read it on my blog, na?’ I answered. ‘No! I received a photograph of you!’ he replied to my disbelief. He sent me a photo, that had been taken from a distance and from behind a few people. So, I can be seen in the corner of the frame. I had removed my mask for a bit, as I was getting a runny nose and someone actually shot me, sent it to someone else and then it reached my Mother hen, who is not even in Kashmir. ‘Aap ko kitni bar bola he, nazar rakhte he yahaan log. Dekh kar chalo!’ He seemed damn annoyed.
Anyway, as you must have figured one doesn’t pay heed to other people’s advice. So, I walked to downtown. First, I went to Pir Dastagir Sahib, chatted with the locals there. Then, I bounced to Naqahband Sahib. The degree of friendliness, rapidly reduced as I walked towards Nawhatta. Before I entered the Dargah, a man approached me and started pestering me about my camera. ‘I’m warning you, the boys don’t like all this!’ he tried to scare me. ‘Well, the boys over here don’t do anything to anyone and they will not do anything to me! I know!’ I matched his rudeness word by word.
I spoke to soon. He hurried away. One went about one’s business, shooting little boys and speaking to a few people here and there. People stared at me, unfortunately, I didn’t notice anyone in particular. Twenty odd minutes later, I made my way out. I walked towards the dreaded Jama Masjid area, which is famous for all the wrong reasons. For me it’s the heart of Kashmir, it’s full of Alpha men, who are passionate and kind, who wouldn’t hurt a soul but wouldn’t spare an injustice. Unlike, popular belief (considering one is looked at as very aggressive) I appreciate the Alpha male and prefer him to the modern Indian man, who just pretends to be all woke but inside has all the same prejudices and is harder to read.
So, of course God is always amused by my confidence. As I made my way into the Jama Masjid complex, to look for a tazbee ( mine broke last time) turns out I was being followed. Now, the cuteness of someone, doesn’t make you less uneasy. I went around the complex in circles and nobody had one. The A.M, behind me, sometimes in front looking over his shoulder. If we were in a car, I would have showed him my classic move, slow down the car and start chasing the one who is chasing you. When the tables turn, men get very uneasy. But I was on foot and honestly this balloonish body of mine can only bounce up and down. Don’t even think it had anything to do with me being a woman. Everyone in Kashmir is watched, everyone, across the board and if you’re walking around with a camera, the entire neighbourhood will have their eyes on you.
One had the option, like one always has of getting out of trouble, but…phir kyaa faydaa jeena ka! So, one kept walking around, even got a little lost. Called up my Mother hen, who stayed on the phone for fifteen minutes as I tried to get out and loose the stalker. One was totally famished by the end of it.
Eat at this sweet little joint, in downtown, called Kathi Junction. Ordered their special Jumbo Kathi, which had chicken and mutton seekh, mixed with capsicum and onions.. It was a bit too big for me. Across from me, sat a young lad, on the opposite table who was eating by himself. We chatted for a bit, I told him, people are trying to scare me about boys like you. He stared at me while I laughed and then went on to tell how, the boys are very respectful of women. I didn’t think it was necessary to mention, I was being followed, as that’s a self preservation tactic, of the Kashmiri people. Can you blame them?
P.S- let me give you an example of how the men are here. I sit by the side of the Dal every evening and do the zikr… it’s a ritual of sorts. As one is a noisy person, in a moment of passion, sometimes I don’t realize how loud I can be. So, apparently today I went into a semi trance state and someone heard me doing the zikr, which I normally do as quietly as possible. Since, I couldn’t find a tazbee (prayer beads) today, these two boys approached me. The Kashmiri boy, kept telling the outsider, she praying don’t disturb her but nevertheless, this outsider, thought it was a good idea to ask, if I was chanting la illaha and was going to jump into the water after doing so. I told him no ofcourse. Went back to praying but this man kept blabbering something next me. The Kashmiri boy, telling him again, ‘she’s praying don’t disturb her’ but to no avail. He approached me again. Then SB, lost her shit and how. The poor guy, literally ran away from there. The Kashmiri boy, repeatedly apologising, for the other one’s behaviour!