‘We all owe death a life’. A reasonably good one, if I may add, to Rushdie.
My visit to Kashmir had been so very overwhelming and exhausting that it took me quite a while to take the plunge and pen a few lines. On why, in spite of having been to some of the most popular travel destinations in the country, my last holiday shall occupy the softest spot in my soul. And I sincerely hope I succeed in conveying all that I wish to.
Let me begin with its beauty, though all that my eyes met in this land of valleys, only left me speechless. The deep blue clouds, the grass and pine trees with their vast and unmistakable ranges of green, the eclectic array of flowers, the unending saffron fields, the umpteen row of dainty willows, the guarded apple orchards…adorn this paradise with such unconditional generosity, that even your DSLR shall fail to capture them all. And you will find yourself placing them, one by one, in your being. Yes, Kashmir will embalm your tattered urban core with calm.
The valley of shepherds, living true to its name, flaunts plush meadows with abundant herds of sheep meeting you at every bend, the shepherds guiding them and a watchdog protectively following each herd, so they don’t lose their way. A heart melting sight, trust me.
The Dal lake again, lends Srinagar a personality that sets it apart from the rest of Kashmir. Laced with mountains and pines, sprinkled with the prettiest shikaras and houseboats, Dal introduces you to a new way of living. The shikara ride, close to sunset, serves as the befitting answer to fatigue woes.
And then the snowcapped grandeur of Gulmarg with grayish blue clouds hinting showers any moment on those velvety green stretches. Sonemarg, indulgent as the rest of Kashmir, will make you go weak in the knee as you experience the rush of an ice cold river flowing near Thajiwas glacier. Many, many such living postcards that made me witness unparalleled splendour. This space will hardly suffice.
And now about the people of Kashmir. The inhabitants of the much disturbed, regularly turbulent land of Kashmir. The kindest and most well-mannered. The world talks about their ethereal beauty and charm. They are the warmest and simplest as well.
I feel this is one major reason our trip was so fulfilling…the people. Magnetic, soulful, caring. Their eyes give away sad truths. Yet their lips narrate happy ones. The winter chills have failed to harden their bosoms. And the ‘kehwa’ they offer with so much love, has only made them warmer.
So what if you find armed men at every crossroad in Kashmir.
So what if most of my search results on books on Kashmir had words like ‘blood clots’, ‘cries’, ‘curfewed’, ‘lost paradise’ in their titles.
So what if all their once movie theaters have long been transformed into army camps to thwart militants’ activities.
So what if Kashmir has no flashy shopping mall for fear of attacks again.
So what if the ever flowing Jhelum, Lidder and Sindh have since ages, been washing away innocent blood. And continue to.
All they showed me was the paradise.
Kashmir, I wish you peace.