Friday, April 10, 2009

Move Out, Move In

rice paddy field kashmir

Photograph: Paddy fields of Kashmir. June 2008. Just before Qazigund.

The bus was a video-couch, and that wasn't the only reason for my happiness. We were going to Jammu, and unlike the last time, on this particular trip, almost everyone was going. I had been to Jammu the previous year with my parents. It had proved to be a good vacation, my first vacation, the first move out of the valley. Was it a summer vacation or a winter vacation, I don't remember...it must have been summer, I prefer it that way. And now we were going on another vacation. But, no one looked happy about it. Everyone was glum and edgy. Anyway, I made sure I got to sit in a window seat. It was a seat in the left aisle and just near the front gate. Between the two aisles, just above the door to the drivers spacious cabin, at a head level, seated in a box, a cabin of their own with a glass window, were a Colour TV and a VCR.  As the bus moved, I got to see things that a had never seen before. Outside the window, there is beauty everywhere. Willows and fields. All Green. And inside the bus, the movie show starts, o joy, o joy, it is Naseeb starring Amitabh Bachchan naar log zachchan. I was praying for a screening of his Toofan, I had recently seen the poster pasted, on the next door medicine man's next door drugstore cum video parlor shop. The red of the poster, the crossbow, it was all so enticing. But for now, for this journey, Naseeb seemed just as good. 'At least it not B&W', I told my very excited self. So, the Video coach really lived up to its promise and name.

Now, I look at the 14 inch color TV screen through the glass, what plays: the songs, the comedy, the dialogues, the fights, the symbolism of three holy rings, the brave heroes, misunderstandings, the monologues, the morals, the beautiful heroines, everyone dancing and the evil villains. Now, I look out the glass of the 20 inch slide window of the bus and I see the beautiful paddy fields for the first time . They look mesmerizing. (Now I know, we must have crossed Qazigund). 'Farmlands in Kashmir! What do they look like in winter?'What do these farmers do then?', I wonder. And then, for some reason, almost on cue, every in the bus starts to draw the folds of the window curtains. I am told to do the same. I protest. No use. Windows are duly covered. Not a single beam of sunlight inside the bus anymore. The video coach is completely dark, like a film theater. Temperature starts to drop, the uphill mountainous part of the journey had started. I start to feel glum. At least the film is still playing. Now, it's that hilarious scene: A very much drunk and beaten-up Amitabh applies Band-Aid on the mirror and consoles himself. He's not the only one in need of a repair. With every bump and jerk, the VCP seems to throw a fit, the screen starts to freeze and roll. The bus conductor starts hammering the TV cabin. He has been at it the whole time. But his treatment is not working anymore. But him is hitting the TV cabin all the more.The driver is now screaming about something. And just before we cross the Banihal tunnel, the movie is abruptly stopped, the cassette taken out, the TV switched off. Not a word. No one protests. Am I the only one watching this movie. The bus crosses over to the other side of the tunnel, but the TV is still dead and black. Video coach is a fraud played out on simple people.

For the rest of the journey, the movie wasn't played again. We reached Jammu in the evening. For the longest time, watching Naseeb all over again was the only thing I wanted . For the longest time, green paddy fields were my last memory of Kashmir. I was eight. And then, about eighteen  years later, I got my new last memories of Kashmir.

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