It was August 15th. While India was celebrating her 58th year of freedom, we were reveling among the wild flowers and the mossy boulders. The sun was out for barely a few hours. That was when we got to see the valley at her best, when the fog lifted. While one of us rested on the boulders thinking of piping hot dishes of Paneer, another took time to photograph whatever he saw around him. One of them lay on the grass, squinting at the pleasant sun, trying to catch a nap. I wandered about in the vicinity.
Two men. One was frail and seemed as though he was made of glass. You would think twice before shaking his hand, lest he chipped off. Such was his fragility. He owned a glorious piece of instrument that he addressed with a menial word—‘Camera’. While he adjusted the focus, the other man held a flower in his palm. He had not plucked it, simply held it in the soft of his hand. He seemed of Iranian descent. Sweater sleeves rolled up to reveal milky-white hands. Blue veins showed through his translucent hairless skin. Wrinkles striped his forehead while he concentrated on his task. Rucksacks lay strewn in the wet grass. Shoes tossed about. They were in a world of their own.
Never talk to strangers, said a voice from within. Heck. I disobeyed and ventured, “Are you professionals?” They turned out to be two timid botany students who were researching on some rare species of flowering plants. Kashmiri origin. Amateur photographers. Been to the Valley umpteen times.
Cordial greetings and happy smiles were exchanged later on, when we bumped into each other downtown in the town’s hubbub.