As I left the Internet last night I ran into friends I had met in Leh. With them I walked the streets of Srinagar looking for non spicy food for a french girl. To encounter non spicy food in India is probably just as hard as winning the lotery. We walked and walked and the people greeted us.. They always want to know where is it that we come from. In a huge group of french, italians, Algerian, Russian and Brazilian it is always surprising for them. They always greet me saying shalom, always imagining i am Israeli. After long walk invited by every shop owner to come in, by ever passer by where we are from we found a restaurant where the cook understood no spice for our friend really meant no spice. She was happy. The rest feasted on the orgy of flavours that is India. Being looked at by every single person becomes normality and so it is easier to keep going.
We walked the streets of Srinagar and as Ramadan, the fasting Muslim month is about to end, we hear prayers everywhere. We followed the chant to arrive in an alley that led us to a Mosque. There were lights hanging from the trees. It was late so only men were there. They were intrigued. Where had we come from? What were we doing there. We stood outside while lots of boys came to our rescue. An older man dressed in traditional Muslim style, with an white beard and kind eyes explained we could not go in, but the Italian boys could. First they had to do the ablutions/ We followed them, and watched the gentle old men gently squat and pedagocially teach how is it that one washes himself before entering the sacred realm of a mosque.
It was dark, and as our strange group tried to execute the choreography more and more little sweet boys came our way. were we muslims? Were had we come from? They explained us the women that at that time we could not go in. Maybe we could, maybe they could talk to someone. We explained we had time, we could come any other day, any other time. The Italians went in, we stood outside listening to the chanting. It sounded so beautiful.
At 4:30 am this morning we woke up to visit the vegetable market. It was still night and the shikara ( little wooden boat) came to pick us up. We entered it still half asleep. And as the Kashmere man paddled our little boat through the lake, through the house boats, through the plants, green lotus, and algae that covered the lake we could hear prayers from all over. Al Hamdulillah, Allah Allah. It was not a decision, it was simply natural that we remained all silent floating in the lake. It was dark and it felt so magical and sacred music came from everywhere. We could only hear male voices but they all chanted their faith for hours and hours. It is not a matter of religiosity, it does not matter whether you have any metaphysical beliefs or not, listening a whole town singing their faith while you float through the secret paths of the river touches you within. We watched the lights change, the reflection of the light painting the water every second in a new shade. Once again I felt thankfulness. When the sun rose little boats came from everywhere. They exchanged goods, they prepared for the great celebrations of the end of Ramadan. Simple boats containing flowers, saffron, spices, vegetables, bread, sweet. I bought cinammon to eat like candies. In reality I bought cinammon to see the muslim man weigh it in a middle aged scale, I bought it so that I could talk to him. He explained to me the meaning of Ramandan. The meaning of Id. The man who I bought water from yesterday came to bring today my favorite chocolate. In the streets people recognize and greet me. As I walked the streets on my own my Kashmere friends, and my Canadian travelling companion came to find out where I was. ”You were gone for 3 whole hours, we were concerned”. Incredible, I thought, I am not alone… never alone. in the thought to be one of the most chaotic places of the worlds, I already feel protected. I already have found a little space of my own.