A Bus Stop in Kashmir

It's a little after noon on a cool day in December and I'm at the Parimpora bus station in Srinagar, Kashmir. The gates opened three hours before, but the flow of passengers is just as steady as when the ignition first started. From Kupwara in the north to Anatnag in the south, buses traverse the entirety of Kashmir; for many, this is the only source of transportation for both local and long-distance travel.

The station is an organised maze of travellers, food vendors and clothing sellers. On an average day, close to 10,000 use this terminal. Commuters rush to work, people visit family in rural areas and others arrive in the city for goods or medical care. Men carrying baskets of fruit, nuts and fried potatoes trace the steps of hungry travellers. Ticket attendants, like conductors in an orchestra, stand on top of the buses, waving and shouting out destinations to the crowd. Men and women, quickly shuffling their way across the dirt and gravel, wear traditional pherans - ankle-length woollen garmets - that provide warmth in the harsh Himalayan winters.

Passengers and drivers continually pour in and out of decorated buses that sing a trumpet tune as a warning call to others. The movement never stops. The sights, sounds, tastes and impressions of Kashmir unfold second by second at the station, providing a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the many who pass through.

@laurenalliestewart | www.laurenalliestewart.com

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