I have lived with a picture of the Amarnath ice lingam on my wall for many years, and though I am a seasoned traveler and have made it a point to visit all the major places of pilgrimage in India. I never went to Kashmir. I thought a journey to Amarnath was beyond my reach, at least in this lifetime. The trek to the holy cave is strenuous and the political situation in Kashmir is mostly unstable.

Last April, my friend George called to le me know that he an his artist-partner Claudia were going to Kashmir and planned to visit Amarnath. I immediately expressed my concern on the difficulty of this journey, remind him of his health problems. “we’ll take a helicopter,” said George and laughed.