6th September 2020 | Dear Anand

6th September 2020

Dear Anand,

Has it really been almost 7 months since the world went into a shutdown? Some days I wonder had we both known then whether you and I would have chosen any different.

I have spent many a long hours in the past 6 months dreaming of alternate scenarios to roads I didn’t take. I suppose pretty much everyone else around the planet spent their long never-ending days doing the same. So many things we wish we had done, so many things we wish we had taken the time with.

I wish I had taken better travel photos. When everyone started posting their favourite travel photos on Instagram, I immediately wanted to put up mine. But as I rummaged through my files, I didn’t find happy, radiant shots in front of the Eiffel Tower or on the beaches of Bali or pubs of London. I found miserable, blurry shots (set of 24 each) of dust covered roads in the middle of nowheres and no me in those photos! So much for finally wanting to do a ‘challenge’ on social media.

But in the many afternoons I have spent navel-gazing, thinking of the many roads I could have taken, I somehow always ended up on my couch in that very moment. I am so proud of us, Anand – of the choices we have made. I have very little regrets to write to you about it.

Well except maybe one thing.

When I was going through my photos, I also came across many a folder with no photos. There of places I have been to but didn’t/couldn’t take photos of. Like a place called Kargil. A landlocked mountainous town on the India/Pakistan border about 540kms from the nearest train station or airport. Yes why someone like me would go to a place called Kargil is beyond me also.

Once I shared a jeep with some locals to get to Leh from Srinagar in Kashmir, It took us almost 16 hours to get to Leh that day because of a landslide on the highway. After some 7 turbulent hours, we stopped for lunch in Kargil, a town seen many a wars. (I was sternly told by the jeep driver not to walk around the town centre flashing my camera drawing attention to myself. Unless I wanted to get shot. Fineee)

A little down the hill from the shared-jeep stand just before the river is a little sleepy tea stall. They had all kinds of tea drunk in the region; Kashmiri noon chai, Ladakhi gur gur chai and your usual all India masala tea. That noon there were only 3 of us in that cafe. The tea-stall owner, his friend with whom he was playing cards with or chess or something and me. As he put a steaming cup of hot masala tea in front me, he asked “something to eat? Mutton samosa?”. At 2700 meters, I was already a bit woozy and because we had to climb to another 800 meters, I said no. He asked me twice.

Till this day, there is nothing more I regret than not saying yes to mutton samosa in that small tea house in Kargil.

Anand, when the skies are open again – let’s go on a holiday. Let’s go to Porto. Let’s take lots and lots of photos of us eating ice-cream in the sun.

Love,
Shyamni.

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