The house was pretty much set, I just had to move a few things around. The kitchen utilities were laid out neatly; I didn’t know the purpose of many, made a mental note to video call ma. There weren’t many street lights around and I saw two neighbouring houses, one of which looked uninhabited. I was told that my house has a frontyard and a backyard, it was unnecessarily huge I thought. Morning would be a good time to figure things out.
Even before I was done taking a tour of the house, the husband told me that we had been summoned to the headquarters, I was to pack for a week; a long list of instructions followed thereafter. I lost interest midway and made him pack my bag. He reluctantly obliged.
On our way the next morning, I was given a verbal list of Do’s and Don’ts; what was awaiting me, how I was to greet people, who I was supposed to address first, so on and so forth. Listening to it was exhausting, like writing a math test which I had miserably failed in the past. I was told that we were to enter from a gate that was only meant for vvips and another long list of big names followed. It’s a gate, I thought, I could climb a wall for all I care. I generally say things in my head first and then say it out loud, this didn’t feel like something that should have been uttered at all. Remember, I had to be all kinds of fancy.
In all of this, I almost didn’t see how beautiful the mountains were. I tried remembering the last time I had been to the mountains, it was many years ago. It felt nice to be back.
Little anecdotes followed as we moved ahead. “We avoid traveling at night, it’s not safe”, “you see that range there…that’s pirpanjal”, “It is believed that this temple protects the inhabitants”. We were to stop there and say our prayers. It felt strange to look beyond the beauty and hear his perspective. It was new to me.
The welcome at the vvip entrance was a warm one. The ladies were most cordial and welcoming. A welcome party was to be organised in the evening, formal invitations had been sent out for it. I was absolutely in awe of the officers mess. Right in the middle of the mountains, a lawn and a place to read. When I called up my bestie from the other world to tell her about this welcome party, all I heard was “free booze”.
I neatly laid out my best clothing. Tried doing my hair but it has a mind of it’s own so I quit. I almost forgot to mention how cold it was. I come from a place where winters are breezy, like spring and some days are sweaty as well. This place, however, was brutal. I was continuously shivering. I had layers of clothing which was disappointing because I looked like a bloated mascot of sorts but I didn’t want to die. I could sit on fire and still be cold. It was bad. My only hope for survival was some good old “booze”.
Ready to march out, I did a final check, got the husband to compliment me and wish me luck. I saw some new faces and exchanged pleasantries. While I was being complimented on the threadwork on my clothing, a senior officer came and asked me if I would like “fresh kinnu juice or a soft drink”. I didn’t know what kinnu was but sounded like a fruit so I agreed to it. The “booze” would come later may be. Kinnu is orange, plain and simple. New word for today. “Booze” was free flowing like the Chenab on the other side of the table. The gentlemen spoke about everything under the world and we spoke about different cities. By then I had realized that kinnu was all I would get. The second time someone asked me if I would like a refill, “Please add some ice to this fresh kinnu juice because the weather isn’t enough to kill me” I thought to myself. “Sure, this juice is so fresh”, I exclaimed. I was looking at my husband angrily while he sat sipping away like a sly fox.