A Match Made in Kashmir

People

A Match Made in Kashmir

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

W

hen Rayees Malla and Ajay Kushwaha met as 19-year-olds on Srinagar’s sprawling NIT campus, they came from different worlds. Rayees grew up in Kashmir, in an atmosphere that was often gripped with tension. He lived through stories of violence and conflict that tore the Valley apart. Ajay came from the tiny town of Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. For him Kashmir was all about romance and beauty, the kind he had seen in the movies. He remembers the first time he set foot on the mammoth campus. It was everything he dreamed it would be. Surrounded by the breathtaking Himalayan ranges, overlooking the placid Dal Lake, his college was picture-perfect.

The first few days were all about coping with classes, acclimatising to hostel life and scanning for pretty faces. Students hung out in cliques – the Kashmiris, the Biharis, the UPites. But as months passed, the borders began to melt and nobody cared about domicile anymore. While Ajay quickly settled in, the local Rayees was nervous. He had never shared a room with anyone before.

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