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Promised land (kahsmir pt. 1)
Before I left, everyone I spoke with about Kashmir would put their hands to their hearts and wax poetic about its beauty, as though it were the promised land. "I'm going there!" I told them. Their expression would change into one of concern: "Are you sure?" they would ask. "ery dangerous. Especially for Westerners."

We tried twice to fly to Srinagar via Jammu. Each time, we would see the Himalayas tempting us from the tarmac of the Jammu airport, but we would get turned back to Delhi "Passengers will kindly deplane [sic] in Delhi". It was as if Srinagar, the promised land, kept repulsing us and Delhi, the stinky metropolis, kept sucking us in. The second day we were stranded for 3 hours on the Jammu tarmac, the pilot invited me and Chad into the cockpit to smoke a cigarette.

But the back and forth routine (5 hours each day on planes) had its benefits: Both nights we were assigned to a different luxury hotel. Which was excellent. A big room to myself. A bathtub. sattelite tv (which consisted of 100 Bollywood movies and HBO). Free meals. Carpets. Sasha and I both confessed to jumping on the beds with glee.

We made friends with the displaced passengers. An ecclectic bunch of sweet people, all of whom counted Kashmir as their favorite place on earth. Manish, a 30-something Hindu spoke with me and a muslim university student named Aliya (with whom he was getting very close after 2 nights chatting late at the hotel), about the political situation of Kashmir. Manish preached about harmony and peace for Kashmiris. It was lovely. On the third flight, when I asked him what he did for a living, he said: "I am a commanding officer for the Indian army". I nearly choked. But soon the Himalayas appeared on our right and we were all at a loss for words. The fog had finally lifted. We were going to land in Srinagar.

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