The neighbour, spunky, bright in skirts and hair clips surrounded by books and take-out is moving out. It all seems very sitcom-like to me. Suburban, modern, bizarre here in the middle of Srinagar. Doctorates and pizza parlours. She hands over the key, offers food, points out geysers, returns dumbbells, smiles.
It’s so cold. Ice in the air. Eight hours in the car through the mountains down to this valley. The cold helped with the car sickness. We lug our bags up three floors. N with her broken toe. The bath is not a shower; my face drops; I was never made for bucket baths. Still, the kitchen light is beautiful. The whole light in this place is beautiful, filtered through heavy clouds, ice in the air, such character to a place. Perhaps it’s the air and not the mountains that draws me to this place.
I’m eating Nutella in the kitchen. I’m thinking. I’m trying to remember what normal life is like. I’m thinking about home. I’m thinking this is another world. But not my world. Just one I like. For the moment. It’s unbelievable. Even now. I wash the cups. Boil water in the kettle.
We have to get ready for the walimah. It’s raining. That heavy rain. I’m worrying about how N will walk that long road to the houseboat. It’s too cold. I’m wearing everything warm I have. There’s the familar numbness in my toes; like that morning we left the mountain and I couldn’t walk down properly. This is a different world. So beguiling.
If I was younger I could have made it my own.