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no business at all, taken apart from the truly important part of tourism. A diverse culture and civilization that have existed for millennia--that is what India has to offer that is unique. Not simply a wealth of hazardous terrain."

Trager was liking Bagchee less and less. "That terrain happens to be what matters to me," he said.

"I am sure. And to a minute percentage of tourists. Achcha, you have seen the sled porters at Kawapatri? The ones who pull you about the golf course for a rupee?"

"Who pull some people. Not me."

"No, of course not. That is just my point. Those chaps are offering a service that was appreciated in the days of the British Raj. The old nawabs and Englishmen are gone, and the tourists who have replaced them find the sleds ridiculous, but the porters carry on, chasing Americans like you through the snow, wondering why it is so bloody hard to make a living. They have not grasped that this is Kali-yuga, the age of destruction. All things are in transition; all things must change. This is our karma."

"You mean something like fate?"

"If you will. But I think of karma as nothing but duty.

Those who appreciate the nature of change have a duty to be part of it. The alternative is to be a sled porter out of work."

Bagchee pulled into a circular driveway overhung with droopy pipal trees, and parked across from the entrance to a modern four-story building. Scavenger birds paced in front of the car, pecking listlessly at gutter scraps. They started at a flash of lightning, then settled back to the pavement. Bagchee waited for the roll of thunder to pass before he spoke.

Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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