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I know Gulmarg’s hype

Being an adventure lover took me into the lap of The Valley (Kashmir) this march. Like my previous trips this again was a government funded gig. I was ready for some real action- Snow skiing. The first thing that comes to mind is swooshing down the snow clad meadows, chilly wind slapping across my face and my not-so-long locks dancing like serpents’. Well that did happen but with a ton weighing baggage of injuries, bruises, cuts, frost bites and some things that I don’t know the spellings of.

National Cadet Corps provides the cadets with unique opportunities including flying, adventure sports, social service etc. The best part is, (keeping in mind the Indian mentality) nothing doesn’t cost you a dime. The Pooja Express blessed our contingent with confirmed tickets and like every trip I make the vehicle was jinxed. Engine broke down in Punjab leaving us estranged in the middle of nowhere. This was one of a kind experience, the train was at halt, there was a light drizzle and at the crack of dawn when the sun rays made a gild on water droplets we enjoyed steaming tea and samosas. General sleeper is pretty much fun apart from the gaping imposing strangers who wouldn’t bat an eyelid while shamelessly staring at you. After putting up a fight like a crazy cat as soon as I warmed up to my window seat in the far away land I spotted snow covered peaks and shivered with the thought of being there. And then began my day dreaming spree.

531841_427651370661459_295331666_n-300x300 On reaching Jammu after we were assigned respective berets we slept like walruses where even drum roll couldn’t wake us up. Three days in Nagarota (Jammu) camp site were drab and unproductive. It seemed as if they were cutting us a slack before the great showdown at Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, Gulmarg. Riding a local bus for 12 straight hours can give one some serious pains in the wrong places, that’s what happened once we made it to Sri Nagar. The city surprised us with a curfew. So all the plans of Nishat and Shalimar came down like house of cards. Setting foot outside the camp area would mean we were dead meat. Still everyone found a way around being scared shitless. Spending two nights with Kashmiri NCC cadets was enriching. They sang and danced for us informally to bid us a safe journey to the destination. One heads up to everyone who visits Kashmir: Don’t compare yourself to the beauty of natives, it’s painful. All this while when my parents or friends told me about Gulmarg I thought it to be sheer exaggeration but once we reached my perceptions did a back flip. I was in some kind of fix as to what word exactly fit the situation, Movie or Heaven. This panoramic land held a promise of enchantment and tranquillity that oozed out of every corner. NCC camps are generally drilling and exasperating but this one sure was a luxury. Wooden flooring, centrally heated, room services and what not. I had made up my mind to exploit every bit of it. Excitement was bubbling through me while I geared up for skiing. Wearing those brick heavy ski shoes was the toughest of ‘em all and walking in them was definitely no cake walk. Carrying their respective equipment 110 cadets marched towards the snow clad golf course where the training was to take place. I was pretty confident for learning the skill really fast as I used to skate as a child but then again I was in for a surprise, those long skis nowhere matched my tiny skates. We learned to walk and glide mostly on the Day 1. Falling on our butts and limping back to institute marked the day.

543494_10200661875380515_1261365059_n-300x300 Trekking around the place we unearthed a small local market where every eatery served alooparathas whichwere more than welcome in that chilly weather. We reached our haunt a little short of breath and to our utter dismay the shoes, socks, and gloves everything was wet and sticky. I so was missing dry hot Jaipur. Over the next few days we learnt some basic tricks to ski without embarrassing ourselves and competed on the last day in Gulmarg. Competition gives me jitters and that’s what exactly happened. Although I am too smug to admit I am a scared kitten when it comes down to a battle. After crossing all the hurdles gracefully I stumbled just before the finish line, such a natural klutz. I was busy mentally reprimanding myself when my instructor howled at me to finish the race. Nervously I tried to get up, my ski entangled and I tumbled till the finish line. All because of my buff body weight. I was anyway hoping to shed a few kilos on this trip and miraculous it may sound, I freaking gained, to my utter horror. That was so not attractive!

482743_10200661872620446_494321238_n-300x300 Baba Rishi’s mazaar is a very easy place to reach but only if you do not have a band of torturous trainers. A 14 KM trek through the snowy woods lay ahead of us. I was already sweating bullets. This was the toughest trek of my life. A minor slip off the path would have been the death of me. Walk was the least done activity, best everyone could manage was slipping and tumbling. Ice is the toughest to walk on when it becomes hard, way more difficult than balureth. Once reaching the shrine we savoured a local vegetarian delicacy pakoras with parathas. Gondola ride in Gulmarg takes you gushing through the wind to the top most point in the area. And up there is a total crime scene like from a movie. The beautiful spotless snow that was sprawled all around was indeed alluring. Crazy snow and wind felt amazing against the body. You could see adventure enthusiasts lurking all over the place carrying snowboards, ski gear, sledge etc. This place is heaven for adventure seekers. My face lit up like a child’s on Christmas eve. On our last evening at the place all the cadets put together a cultural show representing the respective states and it was loads enriching. Award ceremony took place felicitating the winners. I was among the clapping lot, Miss under achiever. Ironically none of the Kashmiri studentswon, instead a Malyalee took the glory! One cannot help but be proud of the diversity of India These days spent in Kashmir opened my eyes and heart to the people who live in such a high alert area but never seem to budge from their pride and joy.
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