Friday, May 30, 2008

Kashmir (1): Danger Danger

I spent my last few hours in Dharamsala watching one of the most fascinating Champions League finals in living memory. Sure, Liverpool vs Milan beat it for sheer narrative, but when have two titans clashed so closely or bloodthirstily? Chelsea were the stronger team, but United created more chances through guile, rather than just good fortune. A shame, I suppose, that it had to be settled so tragically, with John Terry slipping when everyone knew he was a dead cert to score the winner, and in the process expose the arrogance which continues to undermine Ronaldo’s claims to greatness.

As a Liverpool fan, though, it was some consolation to watch the drama unfold early in a Himalayan morning. The cricket-obsessed Indians couldn’t give a shit about football, which meant I wouldn’t be subjected to Old Blotchy One’s inane grins all over the newspapers in the morning. To make sure, though, I decided to follow that old backpacker’s cliché about getting away from it all, by heading somewhere where I wouldn’t have internet or mobile access: The Kashmiri valley.

So along with a few other Israelis – a young jazz musicians and a honeymooning couple, later to be supplemented by an itinerant chef – we signed up for a highly recommended seven day journey into the Kashmiri interior, organised by the Kashmiri Muslim family which ran our hotel in Dharamsala. All that was left to do was watch the football before setting off. But now, unfortunately, was the time for doubts to start creeping into Ran’s mind. His phone began to ring, it being alternately his girlfriend and his mother (a truly dangerous combination), telling him of new warnings that terrorists in Kashmir were specifically looking for Israeli targets, that it wasn’t safe, that he mustn’t go, that they’d keep ringing until he decided to drop out, that he…

He came in the end. But, as I lead you down into the valley, it’s this theme that I’d like to focus on. Why does heading into a conflict zone cause us to suspend our rationality? Why will we err on the side of caution when fearful of terror, but not for more sensible concerns like the perilous state of India’s roads? With all that by way of introduction, then, let’s go down into the valley.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel like I'm sitting on your knee; that this is some kind of peculiar bedtime story with the obligatory cliffhanger..