My dear Nissar.
It is 5 minutes into the 10th February (00.05 a m ),and as I don’t feel like sleeping yet, I thought I would drop you a line. I thank you also for your second letter received a few days ago.Yes ,I do like writing letters and have been a good correspondent much of my life. I like reading your letter having the news from Kashmir that your shivering the “CHLLEY KOLAN “,I hope, by now its getting warmer with first sign of spring.
I also send you EID MUBARAK greetings, and hope your family have been having good celebrations all together.Here we closed the shop so Oyub + Yaqub would go to prayers, have a celebration launch with other members of their family, this evening they gave me some of their food.
A new Goan friend has been kind enough to lend me a (pedal) bicycle so that I can get more easily from my new room to the shop and vice versa, and to the shops in the local town. On first Feb I moved to a small room in the garden of a Goan ladys house for more privacy ,but I have problem returning to the room late at night. It is rather dangerous to walk along the beach alone, and a long way and dangerous by road!
This morning I decided to cycle around the local country side,but within ten minutes I had a puncture.luckly was near some house’s where several “westerners “ have rooms and was able to push the bike there. I spent the morning chatting & drinking tea-people were dropping in all the time- there, at lunchtime .Mem host offered to take me home and insisted on trying my bike on the back of his scooter. We rode the short distance to my room, but just before we got there, speeding taxi hit the protruding bicycle wheel and we fell off the scooter! We did not hurt ourselves as we were going slowly, but I will have to pay for the damage to the taxi, the scooter, and the barrowed bike!
I am trying to meet people and to discuss ideas about what I can do here if and when I return to Goa. One idea which I might do as well in kashmir is to run a home for needy people, the homeless, the abused, orphans. This would be possible with the government sponsorship & backing/support from local people and businesses. What do you think?what are the needs in Kashmir? Do you think people would support this ,especially if a western is involved? I must really do something ,but nothing that will involve what is left of my money/capital .
I was Very sorry to hear off the dreadful disaster suffered by members of the lake family( connected by marriage to the Doonoos ) where gas bottles blew up killing 2 children .I was also sad to learn that Terry has had to return to England as his tenant has left without paying rent and has taken loan of his property.
I enjoyed my 18 day trip to Hamp, Mysore, Ooty, and Other hill stations.Kochin,Varkale beach , Trivendum, Cape Cameron, and return by train to Manglore, bus to gokarun beach just south of the goan border, and back here by bus .I will describe the sights and my impressions when I see you. I enjoyed much of it and learned lot about India . Kerala is very pretty. I had an idea to run a bookshop in one of the Quieter areaVisited by few tourists.
Each morning I have a cup of tea at 7:00 AM before walking the two minutes to the beach,then” frodo “ and I walk for ½ an hour, with only few other people present. I have a swim, Often enjoying the rollers and surfing on them as they come to shore. We return to the room I shower and have breakfast and feed frodo. Now I have the cycle, I can go quickly to the market before going to the shop. Today ¹(Monday) 10/2
I was very disappointed to learn last week that I still have not got my visa/residential permit. After one year, they still want another report from kashmir . Having no visa , make it very difficult whilst traveling many hotels will not give me a room.
I have Not heard from my son for a long time but I had a letter from my daughter Eile who is now in Israel! I am sad that she has gone from this region with out seeing me. So I think I will see chris this year
I plan to return to Kashmir first or second week in March ,but will go via New Delhi to visit the Home Affairs and British embassy. I have a telephone with the landlady here but I am only here at 7 am +around 1:00 PM( after sunset).By the time you get this , I expect it will only be a few weeks before I return. Frodo and I are both well, and I am one step ahead of the cheaters, but it was hard work and I had to be very persistent to reveal it all. I wonder if I will ever be able to trust anyone again – You and your dear family are the exceptional, and I am so glad you are my friends.
I look forward very much to seeing you all again soon – I blow a breath of hot sun your way-
And wish you all the best of health & happiness.
Yours very sincerely,
Telephone 276529. (nb)Fordo was her pet dog.
L/ lady Bibiana.
WHO WAS VIKKI PITCHER ?
She was from England, medium built, in her late fifties, good looking, with white hair, a warm personality, at times suspicious, had married twice, with two children from the Last husband. She owned a small residential yacht in England and earned money by renting it out. A keen traveller would be spotted in many countries . Was annoyed with her daughter who had chosen to live in a garage at Telaviv ,Israel against her wishes. Her son chris was on his own. Vikki had taken to writing ,would contribute to international journals including BBC.
She regretted to have purchased a house boat in Srinagar in the year 1995,when she arrived first time in kashmir, with an idea of settling down for good here. For this she had to go for paper marriage with a local Neegin lake inhabitant who sold his house boat against a huge amount. She latter found the house boat was with many defects, and had to mend it for additional costs. Even with spending good money on the repairs, the house boat after few years started to decay at the bottom, compelling her to wind up her plan’s of starting a charity home for the needy in kashmir.
She had multiple health issues and was on prescription medication. She was very strong woman and would never hesitate to share her opinion and speak her truth.She would share her happiness with me and my family, but was quick to protect it from those who chose to do it wrong or try to uproot her.
HOW WE MET
One fine morning of May 1995,a favourite month of mine, as I love the warmer weather and of course the beautiful May flower’s, while driving my official jeep, I spotted a foreigner asking for a lift. I immediately stopped and allowed the man to sit next to me. He was Terry from England, and was on holidaying in kashmir. He latter became a friend, and would have long conversations with me , at least once a month and we would talk about everything. we would mostly invite each other on lunch or dinner. As vikki was living in her house Boat next to Terry’s at Neegin lake, and were from the same country, they had become good friends. It was on one such occasion Terry introduced me to Vikki. Over the years we became good friends . As I said, we would be talking everything. Sometimes it would be about sad happenings in kashmir, and around the world. Sometimes it would be about her writings, and other times we would talk something as mundane as clothes. She was magnificent:full of wit and wisdom. She passed away in 2014,in her hometown in London hospital due to suspected gastric cancer,as informed by her daughter Eile.
Terry died at a young age of 60 because of massive heart attack in May 1998at srinagar, while I was away to Jaipur, for an in service training. Terry was unfortunately cremated in a haste by local authorities, against his documented will that was recovered from the houseboat by local police,where in he had mentioned to get his body buried in case his death occurs in srinagar by any reason. Sadly a local priest of one of the church’s had also refused his burial in Srinagar cemetery at Sheikh Bag srinagar.
With Vikki and Terry gone, I have lost two wonderful friends. Today they may not be living, but their memories will stay with me. May their soul rest in peace.
Nissar Gilani can be reached at [email protected]