I’d like to thank all those who made it possible, seen and unseen, for this opportunity to represent the ski community here in Gulmarg, Kashmir. With only a short case of Delhi belly, I’m doing my best to express the collective commitment to seeing ourselves in those we think are so different and, therefore, creating compassion in a place divided. I have come to recognize that no matter how far one travels from home, we can still find our tribe and a feeling of home in the mountains. It sounds cliche but though the locals look different than I do, and speak a different language, it is easy to recognize that we all share a reverence for the landscape, the snow, and the majesty of these powerful mountains. Even on the other side of the world, I still see kids building backyard jumps and parents doing what it takes to take care of their families. Even the soldiers seem to have eyes that can see further than their guns can fire and I feel it is only a matter of time before we can only see our similarities instead of our differences on a grander scale.
Though I have not laid witness to much of what the locals have seen, I do see a community reaching for balance and never ceasing to lend a hand when it is needed. The road to Gulmarg for instance is a bit treacherous. It requires chains and becomes increasingly narrow as the snow banks grow (10cm’s an hour since we’ve been here) yet everyone depends on the road as it is the only means of transport in and out of this mountain village. For that reason when one person gets stuck the entire road is at a standstill. When this happens however, it is not a blame game of what someone did wrong, but, “how can I help get that that person moving so that I can get to where I’m going". A momentary shift outside of one’s own needs creates a mega-force of action where all the sudden 15 people are working to get one car up the hill or out of the snow bank. When it’s accomplished it’s a shared celebration amongst everyone from military personal to civilians to the passengers in taxis from all over the world, regardless of language or the color of skin, or even gender. Heck I’m pretty sure no one around here had seen a women break out a shovel until Lel took charge but collectively the road stays flowing.
What if this was how everything worked? Let's say we all have the same goal in mind, to get to the mountain top, to be happy; but we can’t personally achieve that without keeping those around us moving as well, taking the focus off our personal needs and putting it on the needs of the stranger in the next car ahead of us even with the bald tires and non-existent chains.
I watched myself personally shift from feeling grumpy and jet-lagged at the end of a long day to full exhilaration as we banded together to get car after car unstuck. With hands on bumpers, heads down, sucking exhaust, watching ski boots next to army boots next to slippers, dig into the slick snow all for one purpose; to get the road moving again.
So I suppose the lesson is this: Recognize the needs of others as equal or even more important to my own and focus on the task at hand to get US ALL to where we want to be. And what happens when we all get there? Well then, we celebrate!