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Capturing the Essence of Ground Zero

By Maheer Ashraf Baba

Here I am, at Ground Zero. Yet again. There is something that keeps calling me back.
What is it that makes Ground Zero so special, I ask myself. I can list a number of things that do.

As I enter the cafe, an aura of warmth and comfort engulfs you. Everything looks like it is in place. The warm, wooden interiors. The exquisite artwork displayed on the walls in the form of posters. The delicious smell of coffee. And a sense that I belong here. It feels like I’m far away, somewhere in Europe.

I sit at a table facing the busy Lalchowk street, the ground zero of Srinagar city. Through the glass door, I watch people come and go. Inside the cafe, I feel like I’m inside a bubble, a mere observer. It feels as if time has come to a standstill.

Some preppy music is playing in the background. I ask the waiter to put some soft, soothing music, as I want to relax. Moments later, “Shape of You” plays, and I smile.

The coffee arrives. I take a sip and lick my lips. The bitter taste lingers on my lips. It’s my cup of coffee, I say to myself.

I feel at peace, and start to write. Something makes me want to write about the place, to capture its essence.

I think. I write. I listen. I smile.

There are rare occasions in my life when my mind and heart are in sync, and this is one of them.

There are many things that capture my attention. I see the door to the cafe’s kitchen. There are some words written on it. Coffee. Art. Music. Inspire. Culture. Food. Create. Ideas. Memories. Life. All the things the place stands for.

I notice all the posters on the walls. There’s Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and my favourite, Walter White. One poster says, “People are strange”, and I agree. Something tells me that each tiny aspect of the cafe has been thoroughly discussed.

And I’m proved right. The bill arrives in an intricately carved wooden box, filled with coffee beans. The theme of the cafe is European, yet the Kashmiri box brings back memories of home. Indeed, the beauty of the cafe lies in its small details.

Mom calls, and I have to leave. Yet I don’t want to.

As I take a final look at the place, I think, “I’ve left a tiny part of me here, and I’m taking a tiny part of this place with me, wherever I go.”

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