Captivating Kashmir

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Jun 2018 11:33:06


 

By SNEHA TALEWAR,

V acations are always refreshing and rejuvenating. It is a much-needed break, one requires to stay away from the worldly affairs for a brief period. Vacations can be more thrilling for those who love to explore new people, places and food. I am one among those on planet who believe that we should explore newer things in life so that in the end we have ample of stuff in the form of stories and tales for our grand children. And I am lucky that my partner (in crime!) also has a similar take on life.

Moreover, our couple friend who joined us for the vacation also believe in thrill and fun. This time we did not waste much time in spotting the places around the globe, but unanimously zeroed in on Kashmir. Initially,Iwas a bit apprehensive with Kashmir as it is always on radar of communal tension and violence. Also, my little one who is one-and-half years old was a reason for concern. But I did not want to give Kashmir a miss. And finally we all packed our bags to spend in 7 days in Kashmir.

I would definitely want to mention that if you have a well-planned vacation then things become more easy and smooth. Ours was one. We began our journey from Nagpur.Iwas prepared to face little weather hacks as Nagpur and Srinagar are completely contrast temperaturewise. We boarded flight from Nagpur to reach Delhi. There we took a little halt and early morning we boarded our flight to Srinagar.

It was 7 in morning when we reached the valley. The sky was crystal blue, the weather was extremely pleasant and the mountains were covered with snow. I could see the snow covered mountains from airport itself. The mere glimpse of snow made me euphoric. At the airport one humble gentleman welcomed us and took us to the hotel. Another soft-spoken man helped us check-in. One thing, that was striking is that Kashmiris are extremely soft spoken They are simple and humble beings, who believe in hospitality and follow ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’.

I was surprised that despite a lot of political and social disturbances, people in Srinagar do not wear fear masks and instead they have now learnt to live in ‘disturbances’ with much calm. They do not carry the negative shade on their faces. Srinagar, being a sensitive place, Army jawans patrolling isacommon sight. We hadabright young driver cum guide with us who quenched our thirst of knowing more about Srinagar and Kashmiris. He updated us time to time about places and people. Before we left for sight seeing in Srinagar, we did some shopping.

I discovered that Kashmiri women love to wear loud and big prints. And the kadhai and prints on their attires are truly inspired by the nature. It shows their love towards their own land. Srinagar is also the land of beautiful Mughal gardens. Among the other gardens, my favourite was Nishat Bagh. Nishat is second largest Mughal garden in Srinagar built in 16th century. Sprawled in huge acres, it houses vast variety of colourful flowers. The garden would surely take you down the memory lane.

You can seen the beauty of Dal lake from top of the garden. Some other beautiful gardens we visited were Chashma Shahi, Shalimar Bagh, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden. The city is also famous for Wular and Manasbal lakes. Wularlake is one of the largest fresh waterlakesin Asia. After spending the entire day in Srinagar, we went straight to house boat in Dal lake.Itliesin the heart of the city. The entire house boat was ours, this mere feeling was simply overwhelming. And it seemed we were the owners of that majestic house. We all beamed with joy. The kids had their own spaces in the boat.

The beautiful ‘Shikara’ ride was awaiting us in the evening. Shikara demystified the various facets of Dal lake and I could simply sum up the evening in one word - stunning! Many Bollywood blockbusters and songs have been picturised on the famous lake. Shammi Kapoor’s all time hit, Tarif karu kya uski jisne tumhe banaya was also picturised at the Dal lake. Mission Kashmir was also picturised here. Slowly, I was absorbing the beauty of Srinagar. It isrightly said that if you want to see heaven, go to Kashmir. After watching a few prominent places, we wrapped up Srinagar and moved to Sonmarg, which was our next destination. Sonmarg is heaven on earth. Beautiful meadows, valleys and crystal clear small rivers welcomed us in Sonmarg. The entire area was covered with beautiful Chinar (maple) trees, Pine trees. Sonmarg, an alpine valley is situated at the bank of Nallah Sindh.

It isapopular tourist destination, nestled within the imposing Himalayan peaks. Sonmarg is famous for excursion it offers, short walks and trek routes to nearby are stunning to experience. The most famous trek is the one that takes you to Amarnath caves. Baltal which is besides Sonmarg is used as a base camp for starting the holy Amarnath yatra. Sonmarg is inaccessible during winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanches and we were lucky enough that all the road ways were wide open. Sonmarg had historical significance and wasagateway to ancient Silk Road along with Gilgit connecting Kashmir with China and other Gulf countries.The Zojila pass is one of the highest passes for road transport. It still is a base camp for Ladakh and is important for Indian army who holds control over this part of Kashmir.

 

After a little sight seeing, we headed to zero point where the temperature remains at 0 degree celsius and the entire area was covered with snow. It is on very high altitude. The super narrow roads were horrifying, but the expert driver made our journey smooth. And once you reach there you feel like you have discovered the place. The place is also famous for sports like snorkeling, skiing etc. Our next destination was Gulmarg. The natural meadows of Gulmarg, which are covered with snow in winter, allow the growth of wild flowers such as daisies, forgetme-nots and buttercups during spring and summer. The natural beauty of Gulmarg is captivating.

 

The beautiful landscapes, valleys made you feel that you are on heaven. No pollution, no high rise towers only green cover on land. One of the beautiful experiences was Gulmarg Gondola. It is one of the highest in the world reaching 3,979 metres. The first phase transfers from Gulmarg to Kongdoor while second phase takes passengers to a height of 3,950 metres on Apharwat Peak. And we were lucky enough to enjoy snowfall on second phase and that too in the month of May. Pony ride was another main attraction. After Gulmarg we reached Pahalgam by road. Pahalgam holds a rich cover of vegetation.This hill station in Kashmir is another heaven on earth. It is also called mini Switzerland. The magnificent huts, small rivulets and green vegetation mesmerised us at just one glance.

 

Weather is unpredictable in Pahalgam. Among the prominent places in Pehalgam, Chandanwari, Aru valley and Betaab valley (the place film Betaab was shot) are amazing places. Chandanwari is also commencement point of annual Amarnath yatra. After soaking in the breath-taking beauty of Kashmir for seven days, we came back to Srinagar to take flight for New Delhi to reach our home back in Nagpur. Kashmir will always remain neatly etched on my mind with its picturesque locations and pure connect with nature. It has that magnetism that you want to visit the place again and again. And for this reason, Jahangir, the fourth Mughal Emperor has rightly pointed out, “Agar Firdaus bar ru-e-zamin ast, Hami ast o- hami ast o- hami ast.” (If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here it is here).