By : Suman Nehru
“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.” “If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.” Indeed the above statement thrilled me all along throughout life geographically, till I really went there and saw it all for myself.
A trip which will be unforgettable and cherished all through life indeed for the beauty of the place as well as warmth of the people.I being inclined towards Sufism, could not have reached a better place than Kashmir – the land of Saints. It is bestowed with Sufi wealth. Some of the shrines have historical importance in addition to religious significance attached to them. These shrines belong to both Hindus and Muslims and are visited by thousands of devotees. The renowned Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, has explained Sufism “a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one’s inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits.”Kashmir is not only home to the vast cultural and ethnic diversity but also the myriad arts and crafts that have been carefully nurtured for the centuries.
A variety of motifs, techniques and crafts flourished in the land as the people from different regions flocked through this beautiful place and many of the skilled craftsmen decided to settle amidst its charming abundance of natural beauty. With time, these arts have gained even more distinctiveness and today Kashmir is known for woollen textiles, Pashmina shawls, embroidered suits, Kashmiri silk saris, papier machie, woodcarving, chain stitch and crewel furnishings, hand knotted carpets and lots of other traditional crafts. While in Kashmir please do visit Village Kashmir Art Emporium (Mr. Tanveer – +91 7780844427, https://rb.gy/2u1wy5).
The most humble customer oriented person with the best of the products in quality and authenticity. You may reach them on FB or whatsapp as well.Undoubtedly, the situation in Kashmir is troubling. Many countries still have travel advisories in place for Kashmir due to “terrorism and civil unrest”. The substantial military presence in Kashmir may also be unnerving for tourists. On the other hand, it can be argued that the attacks are isolated, and aren’t an accurate representative of Kashmir and Kashmiris. The ground reality isn’t necessarily as bad as what is often portrayed, and the incidents mainly take place in certain problematic areas. Safety is also subjective. It depends a lot on what tourists do and where they go.It’s important to keep in mind that Kashmiris have problems with the Indian administration, not with the people of India or anyone else. Tourism is an important industry and source of income for them. Even the mainstream separatist groups have nothing against tourists and say they must be left alone. Anyone who visits Kashmir should keep in mind that the people there have suffered a lot, and should be treated respectfully.Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim area, and I found the local people to be particularly warm, friendly, respectful and polite. Even when I was walking through so many parts in Kashmir I was surprised by how little I was harassed — a huge contrast to many other places in India. It was very easy to fall in love with Kashmir and to want to return again soon.
We were caught in traffic jams at many places, and the traffic comprised all kinds of vehicles ~ loaded trucks, civilian cars, armoured vehicles and jeeps of security forces, autos, motorbikes and bicycles. Of course there was a security man standing guard with his rifle almost every 100-200 metres. But the picture of the ebb and flow of near normal life that we had seen was far from “mass civil disobedience” or resolute “civil curfew”; instead it looks like resilient life adjusting to the new realities without many hiccups. An average Kashmiri yearns for peace. Kashmir is never going to disappoint you. It is a lot more than blasts, blood and terrorism. I now have a home in Kashmir that too in a remote village. I would surely visit again and again.Some of my close friends encouraged me for this trip and I made innumerable friends for life. Pandemic times had put lot of fear. Landing in Srinagar was like a dream come true, stepping on the land I belong to. I met Shahid. We took a day to get into comfortable mode. I sat in front with Shahid while we drove everywhere. Loved the music he played and the conversations we had from all walks of life. Thanks to the kindness he showed, he was no longer just a driver. He became a good friend and we talked a lot along the way. I appreciate his kindness and think of him and his family with gratitude. He was my photographer and a true travel companion for 9 days. We got along as if we knew each other from years. I would recommend him for every tourist in Kashmir. He can be contacted at @+91 7006890902.I visited Ashmuqam (Anantnag), Baba Reshi Sahib Shrine, Baramulla, Bandipora, Bomai, Chandigam, Char Chinar, Charar-i-Sharief, Chashme Shahi, Fatehpora, Dal Lake, Dastgeer Sahib, Devir, Gulmarg, Habba Kadal, Hazratbal Shrine, Jamia Masjid (Srinagar), Kandi Forest, Kheer Bhawani Temple, Kupwara, Lolab Valley, Makhdoom Sahib Shrine, Manasbal Lake, Nehru Park, Nishat Bagh, Pahalgham, Pari Mahal, Rampura, Rajpora (Khudgoo Mungluu), Shalimar Bagh, Shankaracharya Temple, Sogam, Tangmarg, Uri, Wular Lake.…..may have missed some…. It was quite hectic for 9 days….Born to the Kashmiri Pandit parents, but being away from the real Kashmir almost whole my life, except some years of childhood and some annual trips till I was a teenager.
I had lots of memories about the place but never could connect personally. This visit made me feel, breathe and see the real Kashmir. During my whole stay in the magical valley, I was only connected to the people not from my community. And not for a second did I feel out of place. I belong here and this is mine. Inshallah.When it comes to hospitality and warm welcome, no one can match up to Kashmiris.Noon Chai – The tea. The Kashmiris love their teas and you be spoiled for choice. A usual day Kashmiri household begins with noon chai (salty pink tea) and breads early in the morning followed by Lipton tea with breads (Tomle Tchot – made of Kashmiri Rice flour) before noon. Evenings usually there is another round of tea.Wazwan – There are several multi course meat dishes (Wazwan) I relished almost all of them all the days both meals. Sitting cross legged on the floor with Dasterkhaan (tablecloth) spread, hands get washed by a tash-near (a jug and a basin combo), which is passed among all and a traem (platter) comes in front with a long minced kabab and rista and chicken and what not…….and no forks and knives and spoons…….eating with hand is sone pe suhaga. A major difference in Kashmiri wazwan is the absence of sweets.Kangiri – a small portable fire pot made of earthenware, tucked underneath the pheren. What surprised me was that people kept it tucked even in their beds under their quilts and remained safe.Pheren – a traditional outfit of Kashmiris – an elongated loose fitted woollen robe, worn during winters.
Women wear pherens embellished with an intricate needle, ari or zari embroidery while men wear plain and simple ones in solid colours.It brings to me the fact that the world is a friendly place even for a single traveller if you place your trust in people and go with the flow. I would not be exaggerating if I say that I have lost my heart in that magical valley. Don’t trust rumours about Kashmir…Go and see for yourself, you will fall in love with every tear you come across….Despite everyday struggles, people are loving and welcome everyone with open arms……..Kashmir needs help….Stop negativity against Kashmir.
(The writer is Kashmiri Pandith currently lives in Delhi )