|| Coming back
from Srinagar to Palahgam, Kashmir, I sat in a share taxi waiting
for it to fill up so we could get on our way. Finally 3 muslim women
piled in beside me and we were off. These jeeps are constructed to
hold 10 people plus the driver so with 4 in the second seat it was
tight. On my one side was the cold hard door and window, on the other
the soft body of a woman in a burqa covered head to toe with this
black costume. Mystery, mystery. Could almost have been an old order
Mennonite! The woman next to her also donned a burqa and the third
was dressed in a more normal Indian manner. I had never been quite
so close to a burqa , and this was a tight fit! My seat mate didn't
seem to want to pull away from me either, but then again it would
have been rather difficult to do so. Thus the mystery began as did
my imagination! I began having fun with myself. When we went around
corners, the 'mysterious burqa' next to me leaned heavily into my
body with no attempt to hold back. Not that I was complaining. Actually
I delighted in the warm soft feminine body pressing aginst mine. This
all increased the curiousity and mystery. What and who is under this
black thing? What does she (I assume!) look like? All this is much
more mysterious than a naked body whicyh might or might not be lovely
but without the same kind of mystery. This lovely fantasy continued
for some time and wasn't at all hindered by the vehicle going around
more corners. There are some advantages to hairpin turn mountain roads!
I began to anticipate the joy of cornering!! and cheered on the maniacal
Suddenly at one point the second woman with the burqa flipped up the
part covering her face and began talking to the driver. One mystery
was now revealed - and deleted! Or some of it anyway! Here was a bare
face and head. The mystery gone. And what was revealed?
An elderly woman! In a moment of hilarious humor,
I thought "Cover that face! Put the burqa back over it quickly!
Give me my mystery back! The fantasy is infinitely better and
you have no right ot take it away!" I laughed - quietly to
myself, of course. As I looked at her face, I noticed a softness
and kindness, and a jolly laughing sense of humor. Her eyes has
much life. It was impossible not to like her. Then she pulled
out a small bag of a mixture of nuts and a kind of nutty sweet
and passed some to the 2 women and myself as well. Such a kind
gesture and her way of also communicating acceptance of me. When
that was finished I pulled out a little plastic bag of raisans
and 2 kinds of nuts and shared them with the 3 women. (Note that
I was not the first to express generosity!! Hummmm...). There
were smiles all around! And the face mask never went back down
the rest of the trip!
At one point, the road was blocked with sheep
being driven by gypsies. I pulled out my camera, zoomed it in through
the front windshield and took a pic. The women were watching with
great interest, pointed to the digital picture and talking among
themselves. I showed the photo to them and then many others of shepherds
as well as the scenery around Palahgam. It all further facilitated
However, much of the mystery disappeared! But the woman next to
me while speaking and gesturing with me, never flipped up her face
mask! So all was not lost. We ended our journey at Palahgam, said
our goodbys and I left with at least some mystery and fantasy intact!
I mean, what would I do if all the 'naked' truth were revealed?
Then I would have to live with the stark reality of 'What Is!"
Of course, that could just open the door to a deeper spiritual,
existential reality. It might even move one along the path to 'the
awakening!' Yes to nakedness in all its many forms! The elimination
of masks and costumes! My God, what a revolution! And the advent
of world peace! All because of two Muslim women in burqas!
On second thought, maybe I'd rather have mystery and fantasy! Forget