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29th November 2000 - Page 4

The Silent Night

The sky was as black as ebony
The moon shone like the mother of pearl
The stars like diamonds against black velvet
All was silent as the mist began to swirl

The vines of the banyan like wire
Some touching the ground some higher
This was a picturesque sight
As dawn came in with its first streak of gray light

The hills as tall as skyscrapers
Were tinged with orange bright
I sat on my window looking out
At the last of the silent night.

Ujwalla Bhandari


As the aircraft, an airbus 320 taxis onto the runway, I see before me a straight path. Ahead of it, houses on the horizon, still ahead the sky, the clouds. Hiding the Switzerland of India. Soon we are above the clouds. A few minutes out of Delhi and on the horizon snow peaked mountains, poking their heads out to watch a glimpse of our passing aircraft. Soon we start our decent. Below me all my geography classes come to life. The rivers, mountains, it all comes back in a wave of beauty, courtesy: Mother Nature.

As we neared the airport, I noticed the valley. It was 50-150 kms. At first I was disappointed because I was not very fond of large places.

As we left the airport, I looked out of the window of the gypsy, a beloved vehicle of the valley. I noticed the place is in fact quite modernized. This is not really the horror that we thought it is. (But then I had just arrived). The rest of my day was spend glaring at the people in the traditional 'Military' outfit, that we see in the magazines.
The next morning as I awoke in a bed located in the Hawa Mahal part of the cantt.(The name was given since it was on the slope of a mountain on the side of the cantt). I finally got back into my senses. I wasn't afraid anymore since I could now spot various armed pickets around the slope. Later in the day, I was shown the landmarks where recent bombings had taken place.

The same evening we set off for Baramulla. A place 30 kms away. This was where my father's physical office was. The journey was probably the best in my life. We passed through fairytale apple orchards of Kashmir. I saw the very mountains of which I had once collected postcards. Just as the truly majestic mountains and the crystal clear fragile streams were sinking into me, the glint of shiny metal hurt my eye. There on the roadside every twenty meters or so, I saw the same look on the soldier's face. Snatched away from the family, he now sat there, armed, and ready for those militants that had made his life hell for him and his brothers in the valley.

As we entered the officers mess Baramulla, I was lost in the awe. Too stunned to speak. Probably just like the first explorers to reach this point. The reason was that there in front of me, in the shadow of the mighty Himalayas was none other than the river of myth- the Jhelum.

Never had I expected it to be so close to me. My bedroom window itself was at sufficient distance for fishing. I saw there ahead, the river, reflecting the orange sun, in whose reflection a fish jumped. Nearby I saw a local fisherman, a silhouette against the pale sky. On the bank was a lotus, nearby a rose bush behind which was a soldier with his brother, mother, father, commander and guard. 

The next morning I woke to sense of overwhelming joy. I didn't quite understand it. The day was spent with a local fisherman. The same one I saw the day before. He told me about his friends, family, life and hopes of one day joining the army and building a nice cottage in the city. I spent my next three days here, with my fisherman friend. In my stay here I visited the Uri Hydro-Electric project of 3300 crores.Surprisingly it is automated. That is, no hands!Better still just two people control the whole project. 

On our return to Srinagar, we went for a shikara rode on the Dal lake. I crawled to the front, and felt the same feeling that Leonardo Di Caprio must have felt.This was a magical ride.We also went to the Shankaracharia Temple(we climbed 247 treacherous steps to get to it)from where we had a glorious view of Kashmir.Also , a vital of my visit was to chashmashahi, or 'the fountain of my royals'. Before heading back, I realized the wonderful feeling I had had. I visited the Base hospital, in Srinagar, the place where I was born. I shall never forget the valley, that cradled me as a child and welcomed me as a long lost son-'The valley of guns and roses'. 

Zain Khan
Class VIII

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