Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tourists flee

The newspaper changed our travel plans.

We had just sat down in a cafe in McLeod Ganj -- India's Little Tibet -- for a relaxing pot of Tibetan butter tea, which tasted like twelve sticks of butter melted into a thimble of boiling water. I grabbed a newspaper off an empty table -- the first paper I had seen in days in this remote hill station -- and began reading. A banner headline on page four jumped right off the page and began worming through the more cowardly parts of my character: "Kashmir still on the edge."

We had been planning on going to Kashmir in two days. I kept reading the story. The first subhed was "Tourists flee," and the text underneath quoted a businessman with a vested interest in drawing tourists to Kashmir as saying that tourists ought to stay away.

We read a couple more stories in other papers. Massive protests of thousands upon thousands of angry and riotous young men -- justified, perhaps, in their anger but not their means -- blockading major roads in Srinagar, attacking police (who often attacked back, if not first) and bringing the fragile state government of Jammu & Kashmir to the brink of collapse. AFP called the violent protests among the biggest in two decades, with at least 300 injured and 3 dead. It didn't exactly sound like the houseboat holiday we'd expected in one of the world's most notoriously beautiful (and most fiercely fought over) destinations.

So we changed our plans. We may be a little crazy, but we're not stupid.

We're off to Bangkok tonight, bidding India farewell -- at least for now -- after a wild year here.

So goodbye, India. It's been real. In spite of everything, or perhaps because of it, we'll miss you.


DrScaryBeard said...

Thank Vishnu.
I like this planet best when you and Aliyah are breathing on it too. Have fun in Bangkok, don't relax too much.

Leslie said...

If you could withstand this past year, then you can handle just about anything now.What a wild ride you have had.