The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is quite true. Defining beauty is so complex and can be conveyed so well with few still images taken in Kashmir.
I always heard that once you visit Kashmir you are not quite the same again. A friend’s wedding gave us an opportunity to journey to see for ourselves what Kashmir was really about. Well in truth, Kashmir surpassed immeasurably in beauty that our imagination had ever anticipated. There is a weird attraction about the scenic beauty of this valley. Nature rules wild and triumphant over you and leaves you mesmerized and humbled.
But what touches you the most are not the mountains, the lakes or the undeniably mouthwatering cuisine. The real beauty that is found, and confirmed time and again by every traveler who traveled this timeless land, are the Kashmiri people. Probably we were very lucky to have an insight into their distinct culture and what better way to understand than have an opportunity to attend their wedding. Right from the time we set foot in their house, we were treated as their very own. Everyone would talk to us as if he had known us for years. As we wandered across their lawns there was an endless supply of kahwa. (Kahwa: Tea flavored with cinnamon, cardamom and saffron). We were always welcome into their Hamam to share a Kashimiri hookah. (Hamam : A warm room where most of the family members spend time during cold winters)
And then there is “The Wazwan”. A multi course cuisine with mouth-watering set of aromatic dishes. You are served with five distinct variety of dishes and when you are done, they look at you with a wicked smile and say “Well those were just the starters, there are seven more dishes on the way". By the time the last dish arrives you would have waved a white flag to say “I Surrender".
In no other place can you find people so genuine and kind. Every word that you hear from them is so carefully chosen. Every great feeling that you experience here stems from the hospitality given to you by this very people whose cries of turmoil we all have heard, read and seen not very far away in time. To be so kind and selfless after having endured so much is true character. It’s so amazing to see them able to break the battle hardened truth of the past. Their only desire resides in the hope of peace and stability in their daily life.
This sense of hospitality is not just with a few, its everywhere. Even a humble Bakarwal who lives a nomadic life in the mountains will reflect so much warmth that words fall short to explain. On the cold rainy day before we undertook a pilgrimage at the foot hills of Amarnath in Baltal, I asked a Bakarwal if I could sit in his tent for a while as it was very cold outside. He didn’t think twice. He lit up the Kangdi and pushed the hookhah towards me encouraging me to have a few drags and warm myself. (Kangdi: A earthen pot in a bamboo basket filled with red hot charcoal that keeps them warm)
It is these people and will remain the people of Kashmir who are truly the greatest epitome of love to be found in this mountainous region. The selflessness in every action left us with such intense feeling that if there is one thing that we must do over the course of our lives, is to come back to Kashmir and visit these people again.
I am so happy that what began as a mere travel, will live on as an unforgettable experience. And I urge everyone you to visit this paradise valley and immerse yourself not just with the scenic beauty of the land but also with the selfless love of its beautiful people.