By: Sunny Raina, LMB
Kashmir has always held the nation’s imagination and someone who has his roots in Kashmir can be no exception. The moment I’m faced with a query “Which place do you come from?” actually puts me in a dilemma. Should I answer “Jammu”, the city I grew up in or “Kashmir”, the place of my forefathers and my birth. I mostly end saying I’m from Jammu & Kashmir, thinking that great injustice is being done to Ladakh for being left out.
It was in March 2012, when finally the day came when I, along with two of my friends, was on the way from Delhi to Kashmir. We landed in Jammu, only to find that there was no traffic movement allowed that day from Jammu to Kashmir. But none could come in between our rendezvous with Kashmir as all three of us were determined to meet the heaven on the earth. Finally a young lad agreed to be our Chauffer and by afternoon, we were on our way to Kashmir.
Though the distance between Jammu and Kashmir is hardly 300 Km but it takes a little less than 10 hours to reach Kashmir by road from Jammu and also requires a lot of physical and mental strength on part of the passengers to withstand the “G” forces of the nature experienced on numerous twists and turns. It is a road only for the brave as this stairway to heaven is full of bumps and curves that are good enough to make a voluptuous lady envious. With each passing turn, growling in our stomach increased as if there was rumble in the Jungle of intestines. With great difficulty, we were able to hold the semi-digested food inside us from painting the faces of our fellow passengers. But all this started disappearing once we crossed the Jhawahar Tunnel. From here on, the landscape changes markedly, with grand vista of pointed deodar trees and snow-covered road sides. Never had I seen such panoramic beauty welcoming us with arms wide open. Such was the delight that even a thousand words won’t be enough to describe it.
By Mid night we reached our hotel and after exertion of a day’s long journey all of us went straight to bed.
In the morning, when I peeped through the window, the beauty of Kashmir could put any scenic land in any other part of the world to envy. But, at the same time, a strange fear and stillness filled the air as if there is blood spilled over the land.
Soon we were on our way to the Shankaryacharya, an ancient temple which dates back to 200 BC. One could see gun totting masked army men standing all along the road to temple. Although it gave us a sense of security but it also indicated that all is not well here.
By the time our temple visit was over and we were on our way to Dal jheel in Srinagar for boating, we could see a cheerful sun already over the skyline. Everything around us bathed in the golden rays and cool breeze also made its presence felt. Far ahead in the sky, over the hills, there seemed to be a war between the fog and the sun rays confronting with each other to claim their right over the majestic land.
The boat man was a thorough gentleman. He regretted the dark past of the Kashmir and at the same time was reminiscent of the good old days when everyone lived in peace and harmony.
It was a treat to ride the boat under clear blue sky with Chinar leaves scattered all over the crystal clear water. We all wished for time to stop and wanted to capture the beauty around us in our eyes. Snow clad mountains reflecting the sunlight was a visual treat. The reflection of the sky on the magical waters of the Dal made it look like the sky had come down to earth. The whole valley was embraced by the dal water in a manner that its reflection looked as if there exists a valley beneath the water as well. It appeared like we were floating between two different worlds, one above us and the other one beneath us. We were being transported to a whole new world of imagination and the feeling of which was amplified by the sweet sound of water waves created when the oar of the boatman used to hit the sacred waters, in the process producing the most melodious notes ever created on earth.
Everyone around us spoke our mother tongue and this gave us a sense of belonging to this place.
On our way to Gulmarg, we were first stopped by a group of young men who surrounded our vehicle declaring that road ahead had been blocked but on discovering that we too were sons of the same soil, they all vanished in thin air as if they never existed.
Further as the road became more treacherous and slippery due to snow and slant, our vehicle got stuck on the way. Immediately a young man came to our rescue and helped us pull out our vehicle from the snow.
There was no limit to our happiness when we reached Gulmarg. The whole valley was snow clad and our joy knew no bounds when fresh snow from the sky greeted us in our own but unfamiliar land.
We spent around three days in Kashmir and during all these days, we were greeted with warm food and warm hearts which suggested that all is not lost in Kashmir. As we bade our farewell to the valley, our heart carried a mixed bag of feelings. There was joy of visiting the crowning beauty of the world and at the same time we were a bit sad that a few evil eyes had cast their devilish sight on the valley which bleeds it often.