Had a weird dream two nights ago that I had taken my mom and sisters to Srinagar and we were trying to find the Welcome Hotel.
I was filled with anxiety. I felt that I ought to both protect them and show them everything. But I could not find any landmark or anyone familiar, and the hotel was much farther away than I remembered.
Then all these tourists in bathing suits came out of the water at Dal Lake, and I thought: What are they doing wearing so little clothing?
Kashmir used to be populated with followers of Sufi Islam, which is more of a chill, saint-filled iteration of the religion. In the past 15 years, they have done what every nation does in the face of endemic violence, and adopted a more rigid practices, namely Wahhabi Islam, that gets all funky-strict about women in purdah.
So here I was in my dream, excited to be in Kashmir as an idea, but utterly confused by the reality.
Which is what Kashmir is all about, perhaps. An idea that contrasts sharply with reality. When I woke up from my dream, I wanted to go back. As much as it scared the crap out of me (I am not the intrepid traveller), the dream gave me the bug to go back.
memory: Walking along dal lake with Arshid and this man in pulls aside his pheran and thrusts a wicker basket filled with coals in my face, "Firepot!" he offers, with abrupt cheerfulness. When I shake my head, the smile falls and he looks away with an expression of such genuine despair, it leaves me speechless.