The first time I ever saw a saffron field, was in the autumn of 1987. It was a moonlit night and I was being driven back to Srinagar from Pahalgam. I had finished the last of my slide film in Pahalgam, and I sat back in the ageing Ambassador, smug that I had done a good day’s work. Little did I guess that the sight that was to unfold 70 kilometres away would leave me stupefied with amazement. There was an unending carpet of pale mauve flowers, every detail etched sharply in the moonlight. But the miracle was that the carpet stretched on as far as the eye could stretch: uphill, down dale, tumbling over hillsides and contours of the plateau for which Pampore was so famous. Those days, there were no cell phones and certainly no smartphones, so the best I could do was to store the image in my mind’s eye, where it remains firmly lodged to this day.