An ode to Kashmiris

14th May 2016

'Kashmiriyat' from a traveler's perspective

Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 1/9 by Bee The Musafir
I had to convince hard and eventually “bribe” this cute little girl with a Cadbury for this precious photograph. The unwillingness to get snapped with a stranger is visible on her face :)

Besides visiting touristy places, a good travel plan should include meeting the locals, relishing the traditional food and enjoying the culture. Last year when I was in the Kashmir valley, I was unaware that these three points would become a memorable part of my trip.

It all began with an invitation card from my friend, philosopher and guide Mr. Ashraf Baba, a poet par excellence and a thorough gentleman. His two sons were getting married. With much enthusiasm, I flew to Srinagar to experience the charm of Kashmir and the charisma of Kashmiriyat!

Click to read “Wedding and Wazwan – a peek into cultural side of Kashmir” (coming soon)

Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 2/9 by Bee The Musafir
Ashraf Baba (Abu ji) and his wife (Firdous aunty) made sure that I have a fun time at their sons’ wedding ceremony. They introduced me to the customs and practices of the Valley.


Had there been a “hospitality index”, Kashmiris would top it. Warm, welcoming and loving, they leave an indelibly impression on you with their affectionate behaviour. They are keen to meet and interact with you. They love to familiarize you with the routine, culture and places of the Valley.

One fine evening at a gift shop in Srinagar, a chaiwala entered with kettle and cups. As I was glancing over the gift items, the shopkeeper asked:

“Madam, where are you from?”

“Pune”, I replied.

“First time in Kashmir?”

“Yes”, I nodded with a smile.

“Have tea, madam”, the shopkeeper directed the tea seller to serve me a cup.

“Sure”, I thanked him and appreciated him for his gesture.

“Madam, this tea has SALT in it.”

“Salt in tea??” I was surprised.

“Yes, we drink salty tea, try it, you may like it.”

I was given less than a half cup and, uh well, I gulped it down, somehow!

Though the tea was not of my taste, the gesture of offering me tea and his keenness to acquaint me to the "salt tea" was praiseworthy. Noon chai (literary 'salt tea') is a traditional beverage which is served with Kashmiri breads like lavasa.

Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 3/9 by Bee The Musafir
This little guy in pheran was wandering lonely in Chatpal. He offered me his umbrella when it started drizzling.

Kindness and care are ingrained in the dwellers of the Valley perhaps because of the socio-cultural milieu and their love for each other. A Kashmiri friend is an invaluable friend. A Kashmiri will put in all efforts to make you comfortable. My stay in Kashmir was not in hotel. It was at a home of a wonderful family. They cared for me like a daughter.

Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 4/9 by Bee The Musafir
“Jiji”, the lady of the house, and uncle took great care for my comfortable stay. Jiji gave me lessons on Kashmiri cuisines.
Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 5/9 by Bee The Musafir
Jiji's son, Naveed, is a businessman. He showed me his 'little farm' grown in the backyard of his home. It was a delight to note that we had a common hobby of gardening.

Kashmiri youth are brilliant. They are creative. Manan, a young lad I met, is a self-taught genius of many talents. He represents the youth of Kashmir. The youth of Kashmir is curious to know about employment opportunities in metros. Girls are well educated and are looking for jobs for a bright future.

Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 6/9 by Bee The Musafir
A group of girls I got to interact with at Achabal Garden. They were post graduates. They told me a lot about themselves, their families and villages and thus we became good friends in no time.
Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 7/9 by Bee The Musafir
Adil, an excellent cook from Kokernag, wishes to open a restaurant of his own. The trout fish he prepared for dinner was the best I had in Kashmir.
Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 8/9 by Bee The Musafir
Javed, my driver for all the 10 days during my stay in the Valley, was quite cooperative and helpful. He had recently invested in a four-wheeler and wishes to set up his own travel business. He shared his fondness for Hindi movies and songs.

Kashmir is home to a number of tribes. The Gujjar-Bakarwals are pastoral nomads involved in rearing cattle and sheep. They live on the mountains. They migrate down to the plains in search of pasture. They are often seen at the meadows with a large flock of sheep. While the men command the herd, the women look after children and search for vegetables/herbs to cook food.

Photo of An ode to Kashmiris 9/9 by Bee The Musafir
These Gujjar-Bakarwal women were initially reluctant to get photographed. They were collecting vegetable/herbs in the meadows of Doodhpathri. The girl in black scarf was pursuing BA in English.

A lot is said and written about the Kashmir valley and the people living there. Honestly, no amount of writing can justly appreciate (or devaluate) the spirit of Kashmir - the Kashmiriyat – that is inbred in each and every individual of the Valley. It is something that can only be felt by spending time in the company of Kashmiris.

- By Bharati Nadkarni

(Author is a Pune-based software professional, traveler, a Marathon runner and poet. She can be reached at:

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