What do you say when you have a dream come true but it’s never been a dream you ever dreamt?

Because you could never fathom circumstances which would allow you to conjure up such a dream. 

It’s been more than a decade now, and it’s only at this point that I feel that I have the courage to put this dream-like incident down on paper.

I had quit my corporate job and had started my travel company. I had lived the past 3 years on my motorcycle, leading tours when I had a group and exploring new circuits at other times. 

Google maps did not exist, physical maps were out of date and your best resource for travel information were other travellers. 

And I was dying to become that traveller- who spoke of new and unknown routes, picture perfect unspoiled villages, mountain vistas with private sunsets, hidden streams perfect for skinny dips and those charming stays that were privy only to those who decided to knock the door. This was my dream of more than a decade and I was finally beginning to live it.   

I had never imagined that starting a Motorcycle touring company would actually lead me to something I hadn’t even thought of in my wildest dreams.

It started with a random phone call. Someone, who knew someone I knew, wanted to connect me with someone he knew. Yes! We were all as confused as you are. 

The short of the long was- a production house was looking to film in Himachal Pradesh and were looking for someone who knew the lesser known parts of the region. 

It wasn’t something I typically did but the brief was intriguing and the requirements were easy enough to manage, so we decided to engage.

There were a few emails that were exchanged before I was invited to get on a call with the producer, the director & some other members of the team. 

OK! It was getting serious now. 

 A few minutes into the call, pleasantries exchanged and a brief overview of shoot timing and schedule was confirmed. 

“We have sent you an email Hashim. Could you please read it and I suggest we should reconnect in 10 minutes” said the producer.

OK! What the hell have I gotten myself into?

I opened my in-box and saw a PFA email with an ominous looking .pdf attached.

Irrational fear, butterflies in the stomach, anticipation, excitement- I felt it all, in the few seconds it took for the document to download.

I was staring at a NDA ( Non disclosure agreement) and a 10 page contract document. 

I snapped out an opiate haze, when my phone began to ring and I saw that the 10 minutes had elapsed. 

“So. What do you think? Is this something you can manage? Are you OK with the terms of the NDA and contract?” the producer went right to the point.

“Yes, I’m OK” , I think I heard myself say.

“Perfect then. Thank you for your time and our legal team will be in touch with you.”

As a final parting the director kindly mentioned “Welcome to the team Hashim. Look forward to working with you”

I was just stunned. I wasn’t sure it was real. How did this even happen? 

One moment I am at the other end of a random phone call and 1 week later I’m at the end of another phone call that says that I will, not only be meeting a living legend, but actually working with him and travelling with him to a region where I was supposed to be the subject matter expert.

I was to be the line producer for a travel & food show, hosted by a person who had globally become synonymous with offbeat travel, exotic food, bizzare alcohol, no nonsense commentary and an acute observation on human nature with all its failings and caprices. 

A chef, a writer, a TV host who had dominated the screen and public imagination for more than a decade

Here was a man who had redefined travel for more than one generation. This culinary Indiana Jones whose adventures took him to far flung corners of what was then still an unknown world and his exploration through food gave a whole new dimension to travel- making it exotic yet accessible, exciting, adventurous, in a way we could never have imagined before.

Yes! I’m talking about no one else, but Anthony Bourdain.

What transpired in that magical week was truly inspiring and supremely sad. 

There are many moments that come to mind but two conversations that I remember and fondly cherish are 

– Talking about Kashmir

We were speaking about his travels in various parts of India and he mentioned that he had always dreamt of traveling to Kashmir and experiencing the Wazwaan first hand. However due to the political climate of the region and various travel advisories, his insurance company would not allow him to travel to Kashmir. 

Note- In 2016 he was finally cleared to travel to Kashmir and was scheduled to shoot an episode of Anthiony BOurdain- Parts Unknown. 2 weeks before the start of shooting, all shit broke loose in Kashmir and the shoot had to be cancelled.

– Vegetarian food

I’m probably the only person to whom he ever admitted ( that too on screen) that he likes vegetarian food, but only in India.

If you don’t believe me, check out the episode 

Almost 6 years have passed since his tragic demise and a lot has been written about him and his life and reasons for suicide has been speculated over.

What’s undeniable is that he left a lasting impact on many generations and if one sentence were to define him- “He taught us about food- but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown” as tweeted by Barack Obama