This is that time when humans are asleep and birds are awake. Plants are reflecting dew drops which they have received during the night and animals are seeking strength to be on a roam. Dawn approaches by pushing the night away and I leave the hotel room at 5:07 AM to go to a 2 kilometer solo hike to Upper Neelum. This is my last day in Keran, AJK which is 93 kilometers away from Muzaffarabad.
Upper Neelum hike has always been a high spot for me. The last time when I was in Keran in 2017, a pang of sadness made home in my heart because I wasn’t able to go for the hike. So it was a priority this time even when there was no one to accompany. My first human encounter is with an army man at an army check post. I ask for directions and the tall man conveys to take the left turn and keep walking for two kilometers.
The weather feels as light as a feather. It drizzles in soothing and alluring manner. I am buoyant and afloat with charm and lightheartedness. It is one such scenes which we ache to live while swallowing our daily capsule of routine. It fills my melancholic heart with festivity. And around me, the Upper Neelum air draws circles with soft and steady rain drops coming in from all side.
Encounters and Enigmas
My second human encounter is with two aged women, a mother and daughter, who are coming down from the Upper Neelum area to get medicine for an aching hand joint of the mother. The old lady holds a stick in her hand and is coming down like a pro. I watch her amused and wave good bye with health blessings. With that I am done with one kilometer. Pleased and delighted.
The Tactile Touch of Nature
As I take one more left turn, I see water perfectly flowing downhill. The next moment, I am touching it. Whenever I am in the mountainous regions where water passages are running side by side as I walk, one of my favorite things to do is to run my hand in the running water in opposite direction. And I keep doing that till the time my hand can take the intensity of the cold water. I am feeling its intensity. I have always loved the tactile touch of nature where you don’t only see but listen, feel and taste as well.
An Ache for Familiar Vibes
I have almost reached the Upper Neelum area with home-like (read tiny) hotels on both sides. A little ahead, my eyes are delighted to see a flat wooden board erected upon the edge for people to sit offering mesmerizing view of the river. Sitting there gives familiar vibes; as if this is what I wanted to do when I left the hotel room this morning, as if someone senses synchronization and as if someone finds a familiar face amid a maddening crowd.
A Surge of Satisfaction
The river looks tempered and full of rage. I realized how much I have longed for watching and witnessing this rage; the only cure for my madness. My backpack, with effects of drizzling still fresh on it, rests like it has also found a familiar place. It is my partner in adventure. It has seen as many places as I have; early mornings, late nights, hectic days, serene valleys and people’s colours. While sitting there with my backpack, I spent most of the time in the observance of nature. I absorbed nature and literally inhaled it. I can still feel it.
With this my 2019 Kashmir trip gets concluded. It has been enlightening in many ways but the best thing it has taught me is not to rely on others for doing your things. Everyone is a deserter except yourself! Remember that. We are refined through the cracks sweetly orchestrated by the people. Embrace this velvety light leaving behind all the mines of malice. Perhaps we need to develop the habit of seeing an oasis within the desert of our problems. Life will become a garden of possibilities.