As the dusty bus crosses the Banihal tunnel
the air becomes scented and zippy
and the passengers break out into a loud cheer.
We strain into the distance
to guess where Verinag might be
to begin tracing Vitasta's course.
At Kazigund we order egg paranthas
and now the driver races through---
Kashmiri songs blaring on the radio---
the ruins of Avantipura
the saffron fields of Pampur
and then to the kulcha shops further on.
It is quite dark when we reach Srinagar.
We wait in a corner as father gets our holdalls and trunks
and we climb aboard the tonga---
horseshoes flashing in the dark
against the asphalt of the road.