This is guest post by Miss Manpreet Kaur Dhupia
A recollection of pictures, words, lyrics and poetry lingered throughout that one hour ten minutes flight; vivid and vivacious. These were not born out of my own physical touch or senses but were deep ingrained in thoughts by dictates of people around me. I knew there is a Shalimar Bagh, I knew there is a Dal Lake, I knew there is a Shikara, I knew there is an ethereal feeling; I had sensed it time and again, whenever anybody spoke about the land of valleys and snow. What I did not know was that the recollections would not give justice to what I was about to experience in the next two days.
Kashmir, my destination of dreams and long sustained wait.
A message from an office collegue sums up the entire gamut of expectations that build up when one steps on this land and of feelings that hold you for the rest of your life- “Welcome to Heaven”. A little laugh followed that reading and a big smile follows every memory of the place now.
“Are these houses? Do people really live here?” came the question when the drive from Srinagar airport to hotel showcased a series of wooden structures that exuded elegance and craftsmanship “Yes, we Kashmiris spend our lives on two things- food and building a house.” The statement was very generic but the pride which reflected was singular. The geography of the land insists wooded structures but for people who have grown up in the “flat and society building culture” it meant a feeling inexperienced. The structure of roads, of shops, of lanes , of people , of clothes –everything made me feel distant from the world that I left behind for sometime but so very close to the calmness and peace that the same world I left behind never gave me.
“Please do not venture out alone, it wont be safe. Call somebody to take you to wherever you have to go”. Words of wisdom that were shooted when I told people about my upcoming trip to Kashmir. Were the words wise? Yes , considering the disturbances that have engulfed the area. Were the words true? Not at all. Rickshaw rides on the unknown lanes were of a so called “disturbed area” were my little tribute to Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara spirit in my life!
Dont understand what was Shammi Kapoor praising more when he sung the most romantic Hindi movie song ever- ” Tarif karun kya uski jisne tumhe banaya”- beautiful Sharmila Tagore or the locale behind her; the locale of Dal Lake. If any character of Harry Potter wants to put his/her friend or foe on a stationery mode then why waste a charm or spell, that person should be brought here- the beauty and aura that surrounds the lake would just “stone” him/her. The movements that become out of water when Shikara passes through it are lyrical! One cannot just miss the serenity that suddenly surrounds you. The shopping in water was interesting, the tea break during the ride was refreshing and the sight of mountain range in the background was breathtaking. Did I feel the chaos of Delhi? No, did I feel the stampede of Delhi? No, did I feel the brashness of Delhi? No. Not a single moment spent in that calm reminded me of anything that I brace myself up to every minute of my life everyday.
Sopore, a small quiet town on the outskirts of Srinagar and on way to Baramullah. The orchids of apple and plums that are indigenous to the town made me feel the true sense of the word “flora”. They are your connection to a world unknown to city life- a world of natural food and trees. I will always fall short of words to describe the wonderful hospitality that embraced me that day. The love showered by the family was unconditional. My heartfelt thanks and respect to that family and all the other Kashmiri families who I know treat their guests in the same manner. One thing, did I see the efforts and preparations that went into making a guest comfortable and laying out the table for people? Yes, and trust me for the first time in my life I agreed and accepted that there are people who could beat Punjabis in hospitality!
The last day in the heavenly land saw me tagging behind my friend to have the fastest and largest tour of any city ever. Five hours down and I could beat any localite in describing the insides of University and four Mughal gardens. History lessons of school reappeared everytime a Mughal garden was explored. Shamilar, Nishat, Chama Shahi and Pari Mahal enthralled me to the core. God bless Mughals for giving these to us.
What was the most stand out thing I saw in Srinagar? Houses or Valleys/Mountains or People. Yes they were definitely charming and beautiful but what was most striking was the sense of reality that hit whenever I stepped out. No doubt a trip to Kashmir takes a person away from the madness of city life but one cannot ignore that Srinagar or any other city in Kashmir is just like any city in the country. I walked around the place alone and independently- nobody kidnapped me. It took my friend 1 hour to cover a distance of 30 mns- there was traffic jam in Srinagar (mild one though). I stepped over people and got stepped over too by them while walking on the lane beside DalLake- there were people all around the area-South Indians, Punjabis, Gujratis. I roamed around in Lal Chowk- no bomb exploded there. It was as real as leading a normal life in any town or city or megacity. The simplicity and beauty of Kashmiris and Kashmir distinguishes it from the crowd but Kashmiris and Kashmir are as true and real as are Delhites and Delhi or Mumbaikars and Mumbai. The stories of Kashmir made me wish for a trip to the place but the lores heard always described it as a land far out of reach and too ethereal to exist. It is true in terms of the blessings of nature that you see around but is untrue in terms of the experiences of everyday life and people that you get there.
A recollection of pictures, words, lyrics and poetry lingered throughout that one hour ten minutes flight; vivid and vivacious. This time the flight was taking me back to the crowded life but the recollections were born out of my own physical touch and senses, routed deep inside my heart and mind for ever. Proving a proverb incorrect, “What happens in Kashmir, doesn’t stay in Kashmir”.
The author is a Dehli based HR Professional and can be reached at @rimman