And it was relatively very clean too. Now the excitement is building. 24 hours ago, I was stuck in a Bandh with no options to even move a mile. Now, I am on a train to Srinagar, by no reason of my own. Just destiny and the kindness of Kashmiris taking their course. It was insane.
The train is moving now, towards the North. Again, it doesn’t feel like I am in India anymore. There are sheets of snow towards both sides and the train slowly accelerates past that. I tell them that. They say we are still in India. We are not in Kashmir yet. Once we get to Kashmir, you will see real heaven.
I open up my pack of Tamil Nadu’s finest saviours and Kerala’s finest export to the world after nurses, Idukki gold and the quintessential corner tea shop – Banana chips. The “ Boondhis” are fine, but I had to give a disappointing account of Kerala since the chips got cold and lost their crunchiness. But they liked it regardless.
Now the train makes it way through the Banihal rail tunnel. The longest rain tunnel in India. It’s just above 11 Kms and it takes a good 10 minutes for the train to transverse through the dark boring under the mountains.
Muzi gave me this idea to take the tunnel as it would reduce the travel time to Sri. Moreover, If I were to take the road, I would have had to pass through Pulwama and the exact place where the incident took place. Something which I wanted to avoid at all costs. Taking the train provides me with a really efficient option, at just Rs 30.
Then the tunnel comes in, darkness eclipses us and we are going through this journey into the unknown.
“ In the cave you fear to enter, holds the treasure you seek” – Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell is a person who I really admire for the work he did in creating what he called the Mono-myth or the hero’s journey. Dan Harmon ( The creator of shows like Community and Rick and Morty) once said in a podcast that Campbell grew up a catholic and he was really passionate about native American myths and started to notice these parallels between parables of christ and the native American folktales. Which predated Christ and also had no way of making contact for centuries. And he dedicated his life into comparative mythology and his book “ The hero with a thousand faces” is the byproduct of his life’s work.
This video will give you a good idea about the mono-myth.
I just love the idea of the character arch and I think it applies to all of us. You don’t have to be a Luke Skywalker or an Amelia Earhart to be the hero. Any one of us who wants to venture outside his/her comfort zone goes through the hero’s journey and if we finish the cycle. We come out the other side, changed.
If you want to learn more about this, I will attach these two videos.
One is a deconstruction of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” using the Mono-myth( Trust me, it changes the way you will look at that film again.)
The other is Dan Harmon’s version of the Hero’s circle.
The duration inside the tunnel felt like eternity. ( 10 minutes ) And they have been hyping me up about what lies of the other side. They tell me paradise is just on the other side of this tunnel. After all that I been through, I didn’t find that proposition hard to believe. And I see it. I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
From what looked impossible 24 hours ago. I am here, at the end of the tunnel. And like how a foetus becomes a baby when it passes through the cervical canal and into the world. The Banihal tunnel passed me onto Kashmir. It was an out of the world experience that. For a few seconds I am blinded. I close my eyes, I can’t see anything. The sun coupled with the reflection from the snow makes my eyes hurt. Then slowly the aperture of my eyes adjust and then I have seen it. The light at the end of the tunnel.
I have reached the promised land. I have reached Kashmir.
“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast” – Emperor Jehangir
(If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here..)
It is true. I don’t know how Emperor Jehangir came to Kashmir. But if he had passed through the Bahinhal tunnel. He would have written an entire Persian poem on just how beautiful this place is. He called it heaven then and life came full circle as he died on the way from Kashmir to Lahore later in his life. Guess he didn’t have to make a long trip to paradise. He was already there.
The snow is now deep, the sun smiling upon you with no clouds to impede that positive energy. Naked trees swinging in the wind after surviving yet an another winter. The spring is coming. Everything is pointing towards that. But when you are at that sweet spot where winter is refusing to leave and spring is trying to force its way into the room. It is this beautiful phase where you can appreciate the best of both worlds.
Birds are making their way back I think. I can see a flock, and I have to assume they might be coming back from a migration down South. Who knows? But now the tangible vibe has changed in the compartment. Everyone is a lot more at ease. That feeling you get after you go home after a semester in college. I think that is what they must be feeling now.
They welcome me to heaven.
I stare out of that train and I still cant believe how fortunate I am to be here. I look at my gang and I just smile at them. They made me a promise that they will get me to Kashmir and they are 30 minutes away from fulfilling it. In EP 5 I said I trusted my gut and decided to follow these people I had just met a few hours ago into the heart of the biggest national security incident in a decade. And that decision just felt justified. I have so much more respect for my gut now. There was a time where I would second guess my gut and do the opposite of whatever my gut told me. Not anymore.
………TO BE CONTINUED