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Disaster in Kashmir, Part 4: Rescue

Hi ho, hi ho, I’m a prisoner in the house of wo, wo, woe, snared in the slough of despond. A humiliated outcast. The rain is easing now and sometimes at night the cloud’s part revealing sharp edged, icy peaks illumined against the merciless indigo void—it is beautiful in a disembowelling hari-kari sort of way.

Thankfully Ahava is sick and stays in her room. I do not have to endure seeing her and reliving that excruciating moment of confessing my lust. To while away the lugubrious, never ending minutes of the long, cold, gray day, I ponder that mad myth, postulated by Nietzsche of eternal return whereby we are doomed to repeat every moment of every one of our lives, again and again, into eternity: the same nails, the same hammer blows will affix us to the same worn cross over and over again. This unrelenting repetition is what grounds and gives our comic lives meaning. It is a horrifying thought.

This dismal myth continues: a life that breaks free from the inanity of eternal return is rendered meaningless and possesses no more substance than a bird’s shadow flitting over barren ground. I want to be a bird’s shadow, untethered to the crushing burden of being.

Nir is solemn too. Although it is only nearing mid-September he worries about the onset of winter. Another ridiculous thought (for now).

There is an army base seven, maybe ten, miles south of Turtuk. Nir and I decide to hike there in the morning to scope what avenue of escape might be available.

Turtuk is as disarrayed as a party girl’s bathroom. It is a toilette at war. The mountain slopes are stripped, their knickers cling tentatively about their knees, unsure of what to do. A dead cow is crumpled at the side of the road. The sky is a gloomy as cold oatmeal porridge dished up by a bitter matron in a po’ boy high school cafeteria. It is the kind of sky that clumps to the roof of your mouth and refuses to slide down the gullet. It is the kind of sky that attends strangers’ funerals and bemoans the mournful state of the wake’s munchies. It is the kind of sky that droops like an old man’s buttocks; the kind of sky that shows up for work unwashed and unshaved. It is the kind of sky that pisses gleefully on two stranded travelers: one melancholic and shamed (me), the other whistling bouncy happy tunes (Nir).

Rocks continually shoot down from the cliffs; some are very near misses. Most crash and roll head-over-heels like stoned birds targeting St. Francis of Assisi’s delicate shoulders to flit and chirp upon, but instead forget their angelic missions and resort to suicide attacks with hot murder in their little beating hearts.

Alongside the road, thwarting any possibility of dodging the madding assaults of the mountains, the Shyok River, swollen and as crazed as a troupe of turgid pink pricked monkeys partying in a Tijuana bordello, like an amphetamine charged kitty kat on a nocturnal frenzy, frothing like a rabid Alabama holy roller preaching the furies of the Good Book to a congregation of penitent penitentiary sodomites, rages and rages.

At around the four mile mark a mountain has given up its ghost and collapsed in a despondent heap burying and rendering insuperable the road with a massive expunging of mud and broken rock. The only way back into the world of disappointments will be on foot playing dodge ’em with extinction’s missives.

We return to the unhappy house of woe to report our glum finding to our gloomy gaggle of bleary eyed and dishevelled confederates. Ahava retreats to her panty strewn cell. I feel the chill Siberian wind of her disdain.

Satellite telephones and other accoutrements of high tech survival on the front lines of the Indo-Pakistan stand-off, a half century and more of excited Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded, are banned. A decision is made to report ourselves to the local police who might have a satellite telephone and to notify our respective embassies of our soggy absence.

The Israeli embassy immediately swings into action to rescue its wayward children by dispatching a helicopter. No Israeli is ever abandoned to perish in the anti-Semitic wilds. That neurotic and high strung nation always gathers its prodigal progeny to its heavy motherly bosom. My embassy opened a file after some bureaucratic grumbling about the moral imperative of personal responsibility and sleeping in the rumpled sheets of the bed you forgot to make.

Alas the bespoken whirly-bird of Jehovah is denied permission to enter the precarious tenders of the front line by an Indian army fearful of smoking kosher embers littering the Kashmir landscape, shot down by the wrath of Mohammed’s vengeful missiles, and the international incident that would be sure to follow. I, however, am confident that my file will be duly shuffled from inbox to outbox to litter box.

Instead, a formal evacuation (perhaps a black tie affair?) is arranged. The Indian army will meet us on the far side of the mountain’s extirpated entrails and deliver us into the embrace of Diskit.

It is agreed that at the peep of dawn, when the drool stained satin sheets of night are tossed aside and puffy cheeked realities revealed, an errant pubic hair spat out and plaque coated incisors licked clean, we shall mince forth into the wanton wild of broken Himalaya with pallid smiles on our unkissed lips and the syrupy warmth of a long absent sun, now returned and cracking a loopy buck toothed grin, splashing upon our shell-shocked faces.

With heavy backpacks hoisted high and strapped on our shoulders a scornful Ahava, a resentful Rive, a Snickers besotted Valkyrie, a cayenne Spanish tomato, and eager beaver Nir, trace my sodden foot steps through the sopping valley of despond.

The broken slopes, seething and mumbling threats, frighten us. Despite my sage advice to keep a distance of at least ten yards apart from each other, less we all be smote by a single lucky strike thrown by a celestial prankster, we huddle together for false comfort, tempting fate’s avarice. The Valkyrie stumbles and claws at her swollen tummy. My purloined Snickers, my foully masticated nubile Nubian nymphettes also demand emancipation. She squats, vulnerable and humiliated. There are no secrets in barren landscapes.

On and on, and on and on, we trudge, sometimes tripping over our crest fallen hearts, warily eyeing the cliff tops for death’s plummeting warrants, while to our left the river rages with the hormonal fury of a thousand suicide bombers eager to taste the delicate favors of some very frightened black eyed virgins.

In the near distance, shimmering like crocodile bikinied belly dancers idly lounging and chatting about last night’s sweaty escapades, a small convoy of military trucks wait. Stepping high, our spirits aflutter with renewed hope and yelping Hallelujah! Yippy! and Holy Moly! we beetle hurriedly toward our khaki-clad saviors.

Major Singh, newly promoted and resplendent with shiny brass buttons greets us with a cheery Howdy-Do and what might be either an Irish jig or the wicked Watusi but could also be a spastic allergic reaction.

Orders are barked. Hot tea, spicy chai and sugar cookies are served. Photographs are snapped, both group shots and singly, passport particulars are noted and our trekking permits examined. My counterfeit permit elicits a frown and is passed to Major Singh for further inspection.

‘Shoot him!’ Major Singh commands.

I am dragged and thrown up against the side of a truck.

‘Me! Me! Let me shoot him!’ Ahava volunteers with both an alarming and dismaying excitement.

I am shot. Many times. A bullet pierces my black heart extinguishing the lambent flames of unrequited love. My riddled corpse is lumped into the back of a truck.

The Valkyrie places a small morsel of Snickers on my flopped tongue, a tasty token to pay Charon to ferry me across the River Styx, and utters a heart-felt epitaph: ‘Creep.’

Series Navigation<< Disaster in Kashmir, Part 3: Of Rain, Floods, and Landslides
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Filed under: India, Travel Stories

About the Author:

I like the velocity of travel — it is the constant motion, like the flitting movement of a loaded brush over canvas, where a rhythm develops and is occasionally syncopated by thwarted plans or minor disaster. It is a way of living and an exploration of the outer world and my inner landscape. There are dangers in such a way of living. Rarely are there external dangers; what is to be feared is the habit of exchanging nullity for nullity, drifting from visa to visa until either the money runs out or the earth simply swallows you. Painting and writing is the binder that holds my center together while also compelling me onward. To what end I do not know … these are voyages of discovery. The destination, if there is one, will manifest itself at some point.

has written 28 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
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Bad Mike is currently in: Gokarna, IndiaMap