Extremely excited she was going to be travelling alone for the first time, Nupur was off to heaven on earth; Kashmir. Dreaming of going there since she was a little girl and finally, she was. Her nose glued to the window as the plane glided over the Himalayas, she stepped out of the plane, stretched her arms wide and breathed the pristine air.
After unpacking quickly in her hotel room opposite the Dal Lake she headed towards the lake and her eyes popped wide open soaking the sheer gorgeousness of the panoramic vistas in front of her. Mesmerised by the enchanting beauty of the lake dotted with clouds in the sky and Shikaras on the rippling water, Nupur stumbled over a raised cobblestone and fell headlong on her stomach. Lying there due to the shock and embarrassment of falling face down on the busy thoroughfare, she saw a hand offered to pick her up and she took it and got up flustered and fell on him with all her weight. The air knocked out of his lungs, he regained his balance and held her firm by the shoulders as she stood her ground.
Nupur:” Hey, I am so sorry, I didn’t see you and I tripped. Actually, I was looking at the extravagant beauty around me and I got lost in it. I am extremely sorry and I am Nupur. I just landed in Srinagar. What’s your name?”
The young man just stared at Nupur as she was talking nineteen to the dozen and slowly uttered his name.
Irfan: “I am Irfan.”
Nupur: “It’s nice to meet someone local and I have a favour to ask you. Can you please show me around as I want to perceive everything here apart from the touristy places?”
The brashness and the invite of this city-bred girl flabbergasted Irfan who was a quiet introvert. Not knowing what came over him, he just agreed.
Irfan: “Please tell me where you are put up and I will come and pick you up tomorrow morning at 10 am.”
Nupur: “Wow, that’s fantastic and thank you. I will be waiting for you at 10 am.”
Walking away from her he could hear her still talking.
Nupur: “Please do not forget; 10 am sharp.”
Lost in his thoughts with her sparkling eyes dancing in front of him, Irfan headed home. He had never been this close to a girl before and her incessant chatter and enchanting smile had cast a spell on him.
Irfan reached her hotel at 9.30am itself with Nupur snugly ensconced in his thoughts like a pearl in an oyster. Hesitantly he walked up to the lobby and he pulled in his breath as he laid eyes on her petite frame. Looking like a delicate and vivacious butterfly as she animatedly talked to a hostess, Nupur looked ethereal and he felt as if she would fly away if he went too close. She reminded him of a fragile fairy in her fluttering gauzy top and flared palazzos.
All of a sudden Nupur turned around and he felt abashed at being caught staring at her. Excited about her day, Nupur barely noticed his eyes boring into her and asked him if they could leave early.
Nupur: “Hello Irfan, there you are. Earlier than the stipulated time. Good morning and let us leave early then. I have packed some snacks for us.”
Irfan: “Good morning. Let’s leave.”
He walked her to his father’s ancient Maruti car and sat her down. Getting into the driver’s seat, he wanted to keep looking at her. But he kept his eyes on the road while she kept talking nineteen to the dozen asking him about their destination and about everything in sight. There were clouds gathering in the sky but didn’t seem as if it would rain. Squealing in delight as she saw the apple and walnut orchards, he felt like he was indulging a kid as she jumped out and plucked the juicy red apples that reminded him of her blushing cheeks. He took her to Doodhpatri, which is almost virgin like, untouched by tourists. A bowl-shaped valley with an endless bright green meadow skirted by lofty pine trees and a gushing white river.
Jumping out of the car as soon as it stopped, Nupur ran around the vast meadows like a frolicking lamb. For Nupur, it was like a fairy-tale that had come alive and she danced in gay abandon. Irfan couldn’t help capturing this innocent beauty in his camera. They trudged down towards the gushing white river and sat on the smooth rocks. There was not a soul in sight and it was as if they were in the Garden of Eden.
In a while, Nupur started feeling hungry and as they were settling down to have a bite there was a loud clap of thunder. Nupur terrified due to astraphobia started screaming. She ran towards Irfan and clung to him like a frightened baby. Irfan tried to step back but she hung on tight and didn’t let go. He tried to calm her down by talking to her softly but she barely heard him.
The sky had become dark and the heavens opened up. The rain came down in sheets and they got drenched to the bone but Nupur would not let go of Irfan as her fear had frozen her. The mud from between the rocks was splashing all around and the smell of the rain-soaked mud along with her flowery perfume was heady.
Lifting her face from her chin, Irfan looked into her eyes and he felt as if he would drown in the limpid pools with the tears glistening like sparkling crystals. Arms encircling her gently he brushed a soft feather light kiss on each of her eyelids, on her wet eyelashes and erased the tears on her cheeks with his gentle lips. Coming out of her terrified stupor slowly, Nupur felt her feelings for Irfan were fluctuating. Irfan took Nupur’s hand in his and led her back to safety.
The cyclone in the sky was dying down as a new storm was erupting in the bosoms of these two young souls; the petrichor was adding to their emotions. The first flush of love was sweeping them onto the Milky Way with the stars as their stepping stones to the hallowed path of love.