Oh man , oh man, what an experience! i wanted to have a paradise on earth experience and in return i nearly was packed off to paradise....suffering from a sick syndrome of staying too long in office i packed my bags and for the reason of signing an MOU with kashmir university landed in srinagar. After landing at srinagar airport in the late afternoon the first day went quite well. I strolled around dal lake in the evening observing the lovely houseboats and also bought some whiskey for an evening of leisurely drink in my hotel room.
The next day my chelas came early and told me vaguely about some problem that had arisen because of the transfer of some shrine land to a hindu body, apparently the entire city was on strike in protest of the shrine board's action. Nevertheless superman had to sign an MOU and i suggested that we go aroung the city to the university. Unfortunately on reaching midpoint my autorick was attacked by a motley crowd of protestors, the driver was beaten up and i somehow escaped by the skin o' my teeth though superman has to admit that he got one on the hand too. Running back we caught one of the shikara boats to take us across the lake for a princely sum of 400 bucks. i have to admit that the 40 minutes spent in crossing the lake was a very tensed one, the quietness of the lake punctuated with the sound of teargas and bullets being fired in the background sent some shivers up my a**. To add to this protests had already started near kashmir universty and one student was even shot dead by CRPF outside the gate of REC/NIT near KU. On landing at the opposite shore we sneaked into the campus and i got the MOU signed with the Registrar. Evening was relatively quiet and i returned to my hotel near dal gate safely as i was dropped with the University's vehicle.
The next day started with more protests and riots and clashes with the security forces which we followed live on tv, with me securely staying inside the hotel the entire day. To top it all there was this overzealous reporter on TV who was giving live feeds in Urdu and to me seemed more interested in bringing out the emotions of the viewers, which was dangerous territory. At least for the period that i was in Kashmir.
On the morning of the third day we got restless and timidly came out of the hotel to have some breakfast but what a mistake it was!. We had ventured out a little ahead of my hotel but before we could turn back a 1000 strong crowd had already converged on the road shouting aazaadi 2 . we were in a trijunction with one road leading to the hotel, another towards the dal lake road and yet another towards the city square. To add to my luck one of my two chelas started running towards the crowd with his video camera as apparently being a journalist he wanted to capture the energy of the crowd. Meanwhile my second chela was running towards an alley by the side of the road leading to lal chowk, he had seen friendly faces in the alley who unfortunately were not very friendly for me as they were stacking stones to be pelted at the security forces. Menwhile the security forces started raining tear gas shells and firing over my head, this was a moment which i thought was the end and when i was secretly prepared to meet my maker. However to my luck my journalist friend came up from behind and running ahead we caught and clambered aboard a fleeing auto towrds lal chowk. On reaching lal chowk we again came face to face with a 2000 strong crowd shouting aazadi 2 (what a repetitive word) , doing an U turn we took a side alley and hid oursleves in the office of Kashmir images (local newspaper). The next few hours was one of the most tensed time that i have ever spent in my entire life... (imagine a scared mizo guy trying to look brave with background music of tear gas firing with intermittent sound of automatic rifles ). Within this few hours we even had a visit of the overzealous reporter who was doing the live feeds on TV on the second day. Seeing his face at one moment i even felt like punching his nose to a pulp to vent off my frustration.
At around 5 in the evening we cautiously walked back to the hotel, after the steam of the riot has run out and a few heads split bloody open. As we were crossing a park using it as a short cut and busily toeing some empty tear gas cannisters that were strewn on the ground my mobile phone started to ring. Looking at the screen i noticed that it was my boss's number and i pushed the answer button. Apparently my boss had heard about the attack on us on the second day and trying his best to alleviate my stress opined that it was not me that was the target but the unfortunate autorickshaw that had so brazenly defied the crowd! anyway......
The fourth day of my stay at Srinagar was spent watching TV in the hotel room the entire day.
On the last day we decided to set off early in the morning before the friday prayers so that i can reach the airport before crowds converged and without any untoward incident. As luck would have it we woke up late but somehow got an autorick. on the way my autorick was attacked with stones but we somehow reached the airport, which by that time was crammed full of tourists trying to escape the valley... on landing in delhi i celebrated by drinking 25 ltrs of lassi (edited 15/01/13 :p ) in 36 hours.... (will improve this post by furher edit. Had to just get it out of my system first)