Soothing image of the starlit hills, pollution free and a place to breathe in the fresh air. Photograph: (Others)
When pollution makes it impossible to breathe, pack your rug-sack and just leave for the hills.
"If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I'll bet they'd live a lot differently," said Calvin to his best friend Hobbes in one those many imaginary conversations he had with his stuffed toy. But isn't that true?
We have lived in the national capital - Delhi - for years now? And how many a times have we seen the stars on a regular basis? How many a times did we strike a conversation with them? How many times did we sit in the favourite part of our terrace or on a random bench in a park or just take a walk in any random road and look at those beautiful shinning creatures?
In a city like Mumbai, the people probably have the sea where they can go sit, relax, process their thoughts and walk away relaxed.
The majority of us have been living in the 9 am to 5 pm kind of jobs. Us journalists we never know when our day starts and when it ends. All the anger, the frustration, the pressure comes out in a way that we do not like. In a city like Mumbai, the people probably have the sea where they can go sit, relax, process their thoughts and walk away relaxed.
But we in Delhi have nothing to call our own. The parks, the monuments, the ivory houses, the VVIP traffics, each household boasting of three to four cars each, does not help us get peace. Please do not get me wrong they pretty much make Delhi what it is, as a city. But think again can we call them our own?
Add to it, the air pollution woes in the city have reached hazardous levels, to say the least. Does it not give you chills to not see stars in the sky in the night? Or enjoy the sun coming out early in the morning? Do you not miss the skyline when the sun leaves us with its beautiful shades? Guessing, we have all but forgotten what it feels like to breathe in fresh air in the city.
Now, how is this for a change!
When was the last time you packed your rug-sack and just left? When was the last time you took a bus ride to the hills, alone? When was the last time you walked out on the streets and got fresh air to breath? When was the last time you stood on your balcony and saw the stars?
For me, it was as latest as last week! After earning a week's off from my hectic work culture, I packed my rucksack and set out all by myself. The destination, I had no clue about. I told myself, I will head to the Kashmere Gate ISBT and sit on the first bus that leaves the terminal. And as fate would have it. The first bus that left the terminal was to Jammu. I hopped on the bus and left for Jammu.
As the bus rolled away from the city limits, passing the Sonipat, the Panipat and Ambala, the skies got clearer, the air cleaner and the temperature started to drop.
This was my first-ever journey to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I quickly called up my friend in Srinagar, informing her that I am finally coming to her state. Shabnam Khan - my batchmate from college - has been behind my life to visit her for five years. So the excitement in her voice was evident.
As the bus rolled away from the city limits, passing Sonipat, Panipat and Ambala, the skies got clearer, the air cleaner and the temperature started to drop. The bus did stop at some small dhabba along the way but I happily crossed the road for a foot-long sub. Not cause I am not a fan of dhabba food but cause I wanted to keep my belly healthy for the trip. And surprisingly the subway station served some really hot coffee too that held.
As the bus began its journey after a pit-stop we were back on the road again. It was now time to close our window panes and the winds grew colder. Sadly for me, I had to glance out the window through the pane! But music in my ears winds around me food in my belly and coffee in my hands, I would say I was up for the remainder of the sojourn.
The bus came to halt at a place called Lakhanpur, a village that connects the rest of India with Jammu via road. As I got off the bus I could see smoke come out of my mouth due to the cold conditions. I looked at the coffee bottle in a makeshift shop along the highway and said, "Why not!" With music in my ears, winds around me and coffee in my hands, we began our journey to Jammu.
We reached Jammu close to 2:30 in the night. The moment I got off the bus, the cold hit me - it was close to 10-degree Celsius - and there were private cab drivers looking for passengers to ferry from Jammu to Srinagar. It was quite surprising to see the night-long bus and cab services from Jammu to Srinagar. Fortunately for me, I found one and thus began my journey to Srinagar by 3 am.
(Disclaimer: The author writes here in a personal capacity)