The whole journey from Delhi to Kabul was filled with excitement… filled with many firsts. My first sight of the Himalayas, my first sight of snow-clad mountains, my first visit to a war-torn country. I knew not what to expect. We were literally going in blind. With no information whatsoever on JP (our host) or anything else. If JP didn’t come to the airport, we might as well be dead.
Aj couldn’t have been a better travel companion. I was meeting him just a second time, the first time was in Paris, where we hadn’t interacted much. A travel veteran (which I only discovered later), he patiently listened and tolerated my incessant chatter… oh look at this ! oh look at that! Please please click this photograph!… and so on. It never occurred to me that he must have been very much amused at my childish excitement… but then Aj being Aj, he could be nothing if not sweet.
The first sight of Kabul was amazing. It was nestled in a ring of high mountains. Couldn’t quite ‘see’ the city… no high rises… no smoke… no ‘signs’ of a metropolis. Before we knew it, we landed, and through the window we saw lined, aircraft upon aircraft, of every shape and size – fighters, bombers, helicopters, rescue-planes. We were quite stunned at the reality of what it meant to be at war.
The airport itself was impossibly small – not even bigger than the airport in my city. Felt as ancient too. The general aura of the place was frightening, tense.
We breathed a sigh of relief as we sighted T. (He was the French-end projects guy). With him was JP. And what a guy! He fit to ‘T’ every description of a M&B hero. Tall, dark and ruggedly handsome… and a guy who worked in difficult conditions! I was totally smitten, of course. We piled into his rickety car … while T recounted his week at Kabul. The sights, sounds and smell felt so much like home, yet so alien. Billboards advertising cellphones, televisions… armoured cars… armoured car? hello was that an armoured car??? Oh gosh!
We reached JP’s place. A ‘regular’ RCC structure. Big. Empty. Cold. We will light the heater, said JP… and for the next half-hour we gathered around the ‘heater’ and watched while JP tinkered and coaxed an ancient, time-warped, grey monolith …and brought it to life, to the collective sigh of relief !