It was such a long time ago that my mind softens even the sharpest features, melting memories into liquid pain. Memories, where I wake up to insipid mornings, stretching, making coffee, relishing long walks towards Alishang river where I watch the spray transform into a fierce prism, catching the last golden ray of sunlight and tossing them up like liquid crystal. Memories, where the love of my life walks through the fields like poetry, the slow grace of his movements rushing through me until all I could do was gasp. Memories, where I visited Kalash Valley in summers.
In this close society, one person’s roof is somebody else’s veranda. Little staircases connect one house to another and it felt like climbing into a tree house in the clouds. Through the wooden window frames and ladders of the houses were panoramic views of immense jagged stones and gloriously green mountains surround this secluded valley. For a city girl, and that too from Lahore, this lifestyle confounded me, their homes were connected and I’m sure the hearts were as well. They had something that we city survivors lack- connections.
The nature around me whispered winds into my ears, ‘This June is about to be different’. I felt the chill through my bones and rapidly wrapped myself with a shawl. My shawl coloured with the hues of a sunset- yellow, white, blue, green, lavender, crimson and scarlet. They seamlessly blend in with the background making me feel like the part of this valley. I was so thankful to whosoever made these shawls. It was probably a young girl, eagerly waiting to finish her weaving to go out and play with her friends, racing through the fields of green or an old lady with grey hair weaving her stories into this shawl. I felt precious.
A few lone travelers like myself or anthropologists had ventured in, but that was all. The only accommodation available to these adventurous few were dukans or private houses, and the rest houses in Birir and Bumburet and two rustic hotels in Bumburet. I decided to settle in for whatever offered me the most scenery and comfort. I had to stay there for a month so I made sure it was worth it. After cozying into the room, I gazed out of the window to see the clouds veiling over the moon, trees bristled with clashing pleas and warring prayers and I decided to follow them. I grabbed my shawl and run out of the hotel like the wind.
My energy was immense, maybe a little too much for the shawl to comprehend and I slipped with the shawl, dispersing my energy and clearly hurting myself. The next time I opened my eyes, there was no electricity, no drinking water, no medicine, no sound of a taxis, just a chai khana and a village dukan in Birir, and a rundown hotel in Rumbur. The midnight haze was full of spirits, moaning and mourning. The thought made me shudder, and there I remembered, while assembling myself, I met him.
Musical rhythm weaved across the fabric of his clothes-he played the moment as beautifully as a Sitar. He had picked me up and I had no questions in my mind. My city paranoia disappeared and I was secured, or at least I thought I was. The pain with the frigid wind numbed me and his breath was the only warmth that touched upon me. Within a few minutes I found myself in a room with medicine kits and a bed.
I woke up with the crisp air of Kalash, tinged with a heady perfume of summer flowers and wild herbs, covered around my left leg with a cloth. I felt better; at least, I could walk. I headed out of that room to find the man who brought me there. His eyes were brimming with energy and compassion as he saw me walking out of the room. Ahead of him was an evergreen with hundreds of scarves, ribbons, pendants and laces dangling from its limbs with mountains as the mesmerizing background-The Wish Tree.
While God’s landscape traced the silhouette of the man, I wished to be a part of it all. For the time to stay still because despite the pain in my leg, it all felt so real. I finally got what I always wanted- Connection.