Heart-Warming Stories from the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir

Heart-Warming Stories from the State of Jammu and Kashmir

This year as India celebrated its 72nd Independence Day let us remind ourselves that ‘Unity in diversity’ is something that has always been our first identity and a matter of our pride. With India celebrating its Unity in diversity we bring you heart-warming stories of communal harmony from the most diverse state.

Kashmiriyat’ is the symbol of unity in diversity through centuries that embodies the philosophy of amity, love, inclusiveness and tolerance. You’ll be overwhelmed to see the mutual love and brotherhood every Kashmiri has. Why are we ignoring the existence of a Kashmiri brotherhood? May be because the agenda of a few media is to show communal violence, and the reality of Kashmir and its Kashmiriyat and the many good things happening around the corner are often being ignored.

We keep reading instances of communal violence therefore any story that depicts that there is still hope is termed as ‘a rare display of communal harmony’. But here we bring some stories from Kashmir that suggests that the country has not yet come to the sorry pass and a few cannot change the DNA of India which celebrates and embraces diversity.

We Are Not Just Kashmiri Pandits or Muslims, We Are a Family
Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir have always expressed their love and respect for one another and have always valued them as part of the Kashmiri society. In difficult times they stood beside each other like a pillar and even as the times changed to happier ones as true friends they stuck around.

Let us lift the veil and celebrate the real unity in diversity.

Anwar Mir and Chaman Lal

Anwar Mir and Chaman Lal’s friendship

A friend in need is a friend indeed

Chaman Lal, a Kashmiri Pandit stays in Zainapora village of South Kashmir’s Shopian district. Like many others he did not migrate to Jammu in the 90s. With the passage of time Chaman Lal turned blind due to some eye complications.
Since then, the residents of Zainapora village, mostly Muslims, had been helping Chaman Lal in his daily chores.
Amongst his neighbours is Anwar Mir, a youth hood friend of Chaman Lal. In this sighted world that is always a challenging place for those living with sight loss, Anwar Mir has been a pure example of ‘a friend in a need is a friend indeed’. For the past 30 years Anwar has helped Chaman Lal in his daily chores. From taking stroll in the surroundings to visiting him daily everyday their special bond is a lesson for all of us.

While Anwar says,
I visit him every day. It is a routine for me. Lal puts his arm on my shoulder and we take a stroll around the streets. The same streets and shop fronts where we used to discuss our future some four decades years ago.

Chaman Lal says,
I was not blind by birth. It happened some 30 years ago but I’ve never felt insecure here. My friend is helping me here to move around. I was born here. I lived my life here and I will die here. Mir is always there in any kind of situation. If I have to go to a medical shop my friend helps me out. He is always there.

The local residents of the village to are a witness to the gentle breeze of this religious harmony and says,
Their 40-years of long friendship is a lesson for all of us. It purely is an example that a ‘friend in a need is a friend indeed.

Muslims attending last rites of a Kashmiri Pandit

Lending a Helping Hand in the Final Journey

In a belief that no one should walk their last journey alone, Muslim residents of Kulgam district of South Kashmir performed the last rites of Janki Nath, the only Kashmiri Pandit living among 5000 Muslims in Malvan, Kalgam. Janki Nath refused to leave the valley when all others in his family fled under threats. Therefore when he died he had no family member to perform his last rites.
Though many of us would call it a rare gesture, but his neighbours who described him as their brother thought it was their responsibility to perform the last rites of the deceased.

In another instance of communal harmony and brotherhood, residents of Sheikh Mohalla in Maharaj Gunj, defied the army curfew and stepped out of their homes to help perform the last rites of a Kashmiri Pandit woman.

It is worthwhile noting that while people who read such positive news are shocked at first, but the valley has witnessed such heartwarming ‘Kashmiriyat‘ for decades and this bodes well for the future of Kashmir.

Kashmiri woman and her husband braved a curfew to get food across to her Pandit friend.

Walking miles to feed a starving friend

A Muslim couple braved a strict curfew and walked through the violent streets to bring food for their starving Pandit friends. As they received a call from their friend that they were running out of food, Zubeda Begum and her husband risked their lives and defied the curfew imposed in Srinagar with a sack full of food to their Hindu friend in Jawahar Nagar.

She (Diwanchand Pandit’s wife and Zubeda Begum’s friend) called me in the morning, saying her family needed food supplies. They have an ailing grandmother staying with them. I am taking the food to them. It is difficult but we are trying to reach them,” Zubeda Begum told the Daily Mail.

Everyone is suffering here. We are so glad that these people came here. This is where humanity lies,” grateful Pandit was quoted as saying

According to the couple, the risk and effort of their long walk were paid for with the warmth they received after reaching the doorstep of Diwanchand’s house in Jawahar Nagar.

This is where humanity/Kashmiriyat lies. It helps you stay positive and help others in the face of adversities.

Here were just a few instances where the spirit of humanity shinned brighter. We are confident that there are more such sunshine stories of communal harmony against the rumours of communal violence that continue to haunt and we will bring them forward.

Kashmir – the perfect destination for your monsoon vacation

Kashmir – The Perfect Destination for Your Monsoon Vacation

Celebrating Monsoon Showers

From the mountains to the sea, the rain awakens every landscape and enhances the beauty of nature. Rain refreshes the mind and the soul. Monsoon in India is the most beautiful season and much-awaited for. Monsoon in India is not only about romancing the rain; it is an answer to the farmer’s prayers, a celebration of festivals and a reason to make special monsoon delicacies.

Just like the rest of India, the misty Himalayan range looks magnificent during rains. And if you’re desperately planning to run away from the crawling traffic and flooded roads with potholes, to rejoice joyous moods of green meadows, colorful flowers, chirping birds, lakes and rivers brimming with sparkling water and white and grey clouds painting the sky then Kashmir is where you ought to be!

That being said, there is also no official monsoon in Kashmir, but rainy days come in July and August turning ‘Jannat’ from beautiful to mind-blowingly gorgeous. The silver-grey clouds hanging on the lofty Himalayan peaks, the gurgling river flowing through the mountain towns, drops of water hanging from the evergreen pine branches after they’ve enjoyed the showers gives it a picture-perfect postcard setting.

Fall in Love with Disarmingly Charming Jammu & Kashmir, this Monsoon!

Jammu and Kashmir

The weather here is perfect – not humid, not cold nor warm. During the dry hours of the day take a short walk with the light breeze around the river Jhelum and exceed every expectation that you had. Browse the boutiques on the main road and discover a vibrant range of Sarees, Suits, Kurtis, Dresses and accents. Lend the cloudy grey skies some bright and beautiful colors of your own to spruce up the rainy days. Do not forget to pick up fabrics that are nothing less than perfect for the rainy days. By the time you are done shopping a gentle rain drizzle starts on your, smell the cool and damp air and unlike most locals if you’ve failed to remember to carry an umbrella with you, head back to the hotel. While the drizzle breaks into a heavy downpour after half an hour, grab a chair and sit beside the window overlooking the river and you can just spend hours watching dark clouds slowly turning the perfectly blue sky grey, adding a layer of mystery around. Pen down few lines as the rhythm of the falling rain brings out the hidden poet in you or just simply stare at all the beauty around you. A good friend would be a steaming hot cup of ‘Kahwa’ along with some crisp hot ‘pakodas’. Kahwa builds immunity against water-borne diseases and would double your happiness as you enjoy the downpour of rain by the window.

What is a cloudy, rainy day without a cup of coffee? Venture out of your hotel in the evening to a nearby café to enjoy the cozy and beautiful combination. Goodfellas café on the banks of the Jhelum would be a perfect place that offers a blend of perfect food, art and entertainment. Brighten up the rainy days with freshly brewed coffee and the café music playlist. Keep up the monsoon spirit and increase resistance by munching on dry fruits as healthy between-meal fillers.
When the night starts to fall, the bed starts to call. Tuck yourself in the bed with a book, or a soothing music and get a good night sleep with the rain pouring in the background.

Dal Lake, Kashmir

Take a Shikara ride on a rainy day and let the fresh air blow your hair slowly and the wet wind kiss your cheeks. Feel like a model while nature does the photography! Nature accepts you instantly; it welcomes you in like one of her own. Need not worry, the cute curtains on the sides will keep you fully covered, come rain or sunshine. Peaceful and serene!

Mustard fields, Kashmir

Get lost in the breathtaking Himalayan panorama, tall conifers, acres and acres of saffron and golden mustard fields, romantic houseboats and overall sublime appeal of Kashmir.

Irrespective of water logging, wet times, these are the much awaited flavours that you will crave in this season.

The munar brothers, wood carving, experts of wood carving

The Expert Wood- Carvers of Kashmir

The experts of wood carving in kashmir

 

“Beauty is truth; truth beauty”,

said John Keats and it stands apt for the luminous arts and craft culture of Kashmir. The first thought that crosses one’s mind while witnessing art in Kashmir is of awe as the unique and enchanting crafts synchronise with the beauty of our valley. While Kashmir is famous for various things, the most known are the astonishingly beautiful Pashmina shawls, most keenly knitted carpets, and various handicrafts like Papier Mache, etc.

One of the finest talents of crafting in Kashmir is Wood Carving. It is one of the oldest craft in the history of the world, but exceptionally unique to Kashmir. Why? With its ornamental and delicate aspects, it achieves its individuality due to the use of Walnut Tree wood for carving. Kashmir is one of the few places where walnuts grow, thus making Walnut Wood carving an extraordinary craft in Kashmir.

Wood carving is an extremely difficult craft and takes years of hard work to master. We are blessed with two such master artists, namely, Abdul Ahad Muran and Mohammad Yusuf Muran. The Muran brothers are the oldest Kashmiri wood-carving artists who have been carving beauty from the wood from more than 50 years.

Our talented artists were tragically born dumb and deaf but Allah made no mistake in blessing them with the creative hands and minds. Abdul chacha, who is 72 years old and Yusuf Chacha, who is 56, are Allah’s gifts to Kashmir. Both of them are tremendously good at conceiving and executing the art of wood carving.

The brothers do not let their disability, health or age hinder their work and have recently begun working on some major projects. Abdul chacha has taken up on craving a Mughal- Era wall hanging that does justice to the minute details of king and queen sitting in their palace garden. On the other hand Yusuf Chacha’s project will transcend you to 15th century’s Kashmir. It has all the subtle representation that represent the art of valley: A woman on the spinning wheel, a man weaving shawl, another man grinding spices and the last man with a hookah. These projects are huge and will get much praises from admirers, as the proud son, Mudasir Munar, of Abdul Chacha says, “You cannot spot a single mistake in their work”. Mudasir sells the carved woods made by his father and uncle in the markets in the valley, which is vastly known among the locals as well as visitors, as the fame of Munar brothers has reached beyond oceans. They are also internationally known for their art of wood carving.

 

wood carving in kashmir, the muran brothers

 

The Muran family has an ancient history in wood carving. Abdul and Yusuf chacha fall in the fourth generation of the family and are successfully keeping the tradition as well the almost dying art of wood carving alive. As their fame grew, the art also rode upon the roller coaster of recognition internationally. There is no a single artefact that they can’t perfect in. From carving animals, Hindu mythology gods and goddesses to the portraits of inspirational leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, the brothers have mastered their hands in all forms. They have successfully created the replica of a Hangul (Kashmiri Deer) to gift an US based NGO and carved the miniature replica of Srinagar’s Jamia mosque for the Iranian Ambassador.

 

wood carving in kashmir, the muran brothers

 

The only tragic part to this glorious art is the fear of its extinction. The young generation needs to pay heed to such rich traditional art form of Kashmir and carry forward its lineage. It saddens the Muran brothers to see their art form fade.  Unfortunately, due to old age, their health is challenge. Even though the artists die and their art lives forever, Kashmir will always fear the loss of its people.

Through Kashmiri Life, we aim to showcase the talent of our elderly artists and create awareness about the art of Walnut Wood Carving itself. Kashmir is blessed with the Walnut Tree wood and talented people, let’s combine them to keep tradition and the creativity alive.

Your Offbeat Shopping Cart From Kashmir

Your Offbeat Shopping Cart From Kashmir

Your Offbeat Shopping Cart From Kashmir

“Keep some souvenirs of your past, or how will you ever prove it wasn’t all a dream?”

From the majestic Chinar trees, the mighty Himalayas, the lush green hillsides, the mesmerising sounds of the Rabab, the finely woven Pashmina, the Dal Jheel reflecting ornamental walnut wood carved houseboats, the local Kashmiri chacha in pheran, the alluring red Kashmiri chillies, the Saffron Town, to bags full of apples and cherries the list goes on. Kashmir is indeed any traveller’s dream.

Hey there! Planning a trip to Kashmir to escape the heat and dust? See Kashmir as a traveler this time, not as a tourist! Traveling is so much more than just visiting the touristy highlights. While the must-see attractions are always fun, be sure to find the time for some of the little-known or less documented spots too.

Whenever you visit somewhere, you always need some pre-trip research. And if you are doing that right now, you are welcome! You’ve come to the right place. We will help you with an essential part of our trip – shopping.

While the staple shopping cart of every tourist would include – pashmina shawls, walnut wood carvings, papiér–maché knick knacks and the alluring red Kashmiri chillies, allow us to send you back with some not so staple items as a memory from Kashmir.

Take note:

Vintage things from Kashmir

 

“Fads come and go but V I N T A G E endures.”
Buy vintage maps of Kashmir, old photographs of Kashmir, antique copper ware like samovars and trays, antique silver.

Special tea leaves for Pink tea

 

“Give me tea, O Saqi, and let there be no delay;
Let me have it bitter, if milk and sugar are not at hand.
Had Jamshid taken a draught from this pot,
His slow-beating pulse would have run like deer.
Have you heard the boiling kettle of tea cry bagg bagg?
Verily you would say it was Mansur shouting ana al-haqq.
There is a reference in the Book of God
Bread to eat and tea to drink.”
Chanama, (A Tea Poem) by Mulla Hamidullah when Chai mania was probably at peak in Kashmir.
Addicted to tea? Why sip on only milk tea when you can bring back some special tea leaves to make the traditional ‘gulabi chai’? You’ll get them easily at most grocery stores.

Shatoosh Shawl

 

Wrapped in ‘Pashmina’
Of course you’re going to buy a Kashmiri Pashmina but don’t forget to buy a ‘Shahtoosh’ shawl. They are so fine and light they can be passed through a wedding ring and are warm enough to hatch a pigeon egg.

Local Kashmiri jewellery & attire

 

Let’s go Local!
Be spoiled for choice with local Kashmiri ornaments and attire – necklaces, bracelets, hairpins and of course pherans.

Spices from Kashmir

 

At northern India’s tip lies the snowy cold and spicy hot Kashmir region.
Think spices in Kashmir and you’ll automatically be reminded Kashmiri red chillies. Heat it up with some Kashmiri red chilies. Other than the, you must take back saffron from a saffron farm near Pampore Fields.

Doda Sapphire

 

Bank upon a piece of jewellery enveloped with the ‘Doda Sapphire’
If you’ve not already burnt a hole in your pocket by investing in a Pashmina, try a very rare and unique to Kashmir gem, the ‘Doda Sapphire’.

Kandur waan

 

‘Kandur Wan’, where breads are baked with love and sprinkled with dreams.
Take some bread, love and dreams back home made at our local bakery or ‘Kandur Wan’ as we call it. Lavaasa, Girdas and Kulchas needs special mentions.

Don’t come back home without owning any of the above mentioned items and while browsing the wares experience some haggling with locals. There’s no truer way to experience a place and once you come back from a trip to Kashmir. You’ll definitely say, Emperor Jehangir was right.

“Gar firdaus bar ru e zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”

kashmir travelogue, travel to kashmir, gulmarg

First-hand travelogue of a journey to Kashmir (Srinagar, Yousmarg & Gulmarg)

 

Gulmarg, Yousmarg, Srinagar, Kashmir, Kashmiriyat

And I am back with the travelogue of my friend’s recent visit to Srinagar, Yousmarg and Gulmarg. After unravelling her travel to Srinagar & Yousmarg, I had saved her experience of Gulmarg to be told separately!Gulmarg is undoubtedly heaven on earth- A piece of land quietly spelled to evoke souls of angels by Allah. The rainbows that stretch along its horizon look like halos on the heads of angels. A beauty incomparable; can only be witnessed with the eyes of soul.

After her adventures in Srinagar & Yousmarg for three and a half days, my friend began her ride to serene Gulmarg in a taxi in the second half of her third day in Kashmir.

road to gulmarg, gulmarg

{बिट्टीनाईदूरीए
चूमज़राईबामराइयो
क्याकरहूथाम
ज़ारज़राईबामराइयो

I hummed as my cab driver sang along with me and the tape. The song Do Jahan was stuck in my mind from the first time I heard it in the movie Haider! Even though the song is little sad and about separation, the Kashmiri bit leaves me calm and at peace.

 

That day with 2 ‘O’Clock on the watch,

Meadows and moors ran across, The song made me cry.

For I was going away from Srinagar, Separation hit my eye!

I hummed, I calmed- His soothing voice did the charm.

This was the most beautiful road I had ever bestowed,

Green and Blue and White- lay on the crescent road.

 

We stopped at Kolahoi Green Heights Hotel in Gulmarg.

kolahoi greens

 

Immense green land below my feet

And grandeur blue sky above my head;

Long trees,

And sights of snow covered mountain peaks…

 

is the first expression of Gulmarg in my eyes, captured like a picture. We reached around four o’clock and were tired already. The hotel served us with grand warm rooms and Kahwah. We already had our lunch so we enjoyed the apple crisps along with tea. The ambience of Kolahoi was as warm as the Kashmiri people managing it. After some rest at the hotel, we decided to go and take a walk in the greenery outside.
While in Gulmarg, one does not have to be worried about where, when, how, or why to explore it. Just resume out of your hotel, and start strolling. Every street contours the essence of Kashmiriyat in it as people walking in their long warm clothes smile at you affectionately. We walked through the roads that were surrounded with trees and small weeds hidden in grass. I plucked some and kept them in my journal. I was keen to learn their names & store Gulmarg in its bits.

My father and sister had rented bicycles and me and my mother decided to walk. (You can rent them in Gulmarg as per hour or per day basis, depending upon your need). On our way, we visited a children’s park, church and temple.

 

As it grew dark,

Gulmarg lit up in household lights.

Like fireflies- On a moonlit night.

The sky turned black,

The blue hay spread along sides.

Stars twinkled, moon smiled,

The clouds hid them behind blue eyes.

 

So far I had only witnessed, noon and night in the arms of Gulmarg. The next day I woke up at 6:30 am when my father was sitting at the edge of the window in our room, a sun-kissed ray spread on his shoulder. He looked in the distant somewhere at something. I was sure I got my genes of dreaming from him! We decided to go out for a walk.

The trees were lit with rays of sunlight

Scattering their arms wide, they touched my eyes,

One ray at a time!

Misty blue sky, hay sitting on flowers nearby,

And bumble bees singing in delight.

Such was the ride,

With breeze on my face and mud in my feet lie.

Apparently, we got lost. But thanks to the really kind people of Gulmarg, they not only told us the way back to our hotel, but one of the baba (Elderly man) walked us back as he was going somewhere nearby. On our way back he sang Kashmiri folks, which I could barely understand. The melody of his voice transcended me to the world of a nightingale singing loud from its beak while I sat and listened to it. His voice was coarse and probably that’d be its beauty.

When we reached, my mother was turning blue and red as we were supposed to get ready for the visit to Gondola. We got ready in minutes, had our breakfast and went along quietly, without meeting her eyes (laughs). And yeah, the food was delicious.

gondola, gulmarg

The details on Gondola adventure are easily available on internet so I’ll skip the description and jump on to the best part. It is divided into two phases and both of them give completely different views of the valley. While phase 1 was extremely beautiful and picturesque, phase 2 was altogether snow covered even in the month of June. The authorities let you stay there only for two to three hours hence decided to make most of it.

From phase 2, we walked to Alpather Lake located in between of Aparwath peaks. My hands were freezing and it was the best feeling I had ever got so far in my life. The lake, except in June & July, is frozen throughout the year. I closed my eyes to imagine a frozen lake before me. But the beauty of its water had made its abode in my heart already.

alpather lake

After coming back from Gondola, I was extremely tired. So I sat in the balcony and began settling my journal which was overflowing with weeds and flowers where I slept unaware of where I was. Next day I woke up in my bed (My dad must have tucked me in), and it was time to leave. We had a flight back from Srinagar Airport around 1 pm.

 

I ran out for the last time on that trip,

Breathed in all the air I could,

And whispered, Goodbye,

I promise to come back again!}

That’s where her beautiful journey ends. She surely flew back to her home, but she left a piece of her heart in Kashmir. Her poetic romance with Kashmir, made me see a whole new Kashmir through her eyes despite the fact that I have lived here all my life. As I conclude I’d take some liberty and say Kashmir is where the Heart is.

At Kashmiri Life, we try to explore the beauty, culture and traditions of Kashmir is different ways. The experience shared by my friend gave us a chance to enlighten our readers with a poetic insight of our beautiful valley. I thank my friend for sharing her intellect with me so I could share it with my readers.

Kashmir BLOG

First-hand travelogue of a journey to Kashmir (Srinagar, Yousmarg & Gulmarg)

kashmir travelogue, travel to kashmir, gulmarg

 

Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast”,

repeated Jahangir, after Amir Khusro, when he saw the scenic beauty of Kashmir.

My friend recently visited Kashmir. See her experience unwind in the serene towns like Srinagar, Yousmarg and Gulmarg as she has a unique description for each one of them-

{I  have always been fascinated by Kashmir, its blue skies and the stories of its beauty. I was told that my parents took me to Kashmir as a child but not that I remember any of it now. And, recently I got a chance to visit Srinagar and Gulmarg with my parents, again. It was a trip of 6 days and 5 nights.

Days I will never forget,

Nights that still breeze on my cheeks.

It must be the charm of that morning,

And I fell in love with Kashmir-

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen…

 

kASHMIR TRAVELOGUE

 

We spent three and a half days in Srinagar and the other two and a half in Gulmarg (I remember that our trip advisor suggested that we spend one day in Gulmarg, but we gladly spent two), the best decision ever, for its beauty, can’t be seen in a day according to me. Initially, I was totally unaware of the actual presence of romanticism in Kashmir. All the information I had was either googled or someone else’s perspective distorting my vision of Kashmir. In this way I felt twice removed from reality. The first day, we landed at Srinagar International Airport and took a taxi to our hotel, Metropolis, in Srinagar.

It was in the ride from airport to hotel,

The one I could translate in prospects.

And all that I could feel was breeze ,

Flowing gently on my cheeks.

The birds chirping up on the trees.

Sun rays kissing my bodice.

I had transcended to a dream,

No car- no hotel came in between.

And bang, we were there. My enigma was disturbed, but soon warm acquaintance of people, and the Kahwah they offered embraced me back. All I needed to do was to crash in the comfy bed of hotel for some time to regain all the energy to explore ‘Jannat’ on Earth.

 

Metropolis srinagar

 

After having an absolutely delicious breakfast of Kashmiri breads called Girda & Choat, omelettes, some more Kahwah and fruits like cherries, peach es and apples; we went out to see the gardens around our hotel. The nearest was Tulip garden, unfortunately closed in June. Tulips bloom best in April and May and I was a little sad that we came in June. But then we went to other gardens, Chashma Shahi Garden, Botanical gardens and many more that showcases the equally serene landscapes. We walked to these places and I was busy collecting different types of wild weeds and flowers along the way.

In the evening, we went to Dal Lake where my jaw dropped to my shoe when I saw Shikaras dressed in colours, flowers and mystique. It felt like I already knew this place.

 

Shikara, dal lake, srinagar

 

We floated in Dal, with several other Shikaras,

Reds and blues and yellows and greens,

I wore blue, and others were drenched in sun-set beams.

He hummed a song I couldn’t understand,

But his smile, voice and rhythm put me at peace.

Chattered a woman, and another, and a third,

Selling and sailing together.

He hit another splash, and we moved forward,

Soon we were in the middle of Gods shower.

“Neeche utar lo didi”, said he.

The most commercial Shikaras are available near Ghat 2 that take you to other side where there are restaurants, bookstores etc. While my parents moved to some handicrafts shop, I entered a bookstore called, Gulshan Bookstore, a one of its kind bookshop-library on the famous Dal Lake. It turned out to be the most interesting place for me. It was a hub of Kashmiri literature along with others. It is a perfect place all book lovers. We spent a good time in the market around.

When we came back it was already night and after dinner we had a sound sleep in the comfy quilts of our hotel. My wish of having some Kahwah before going to bed was fulfilled by the ‘kaka’ there, who was also pleased at my request.

Next morning we took a taxi to Yousmarg, a valley two and a half hours away from Srinagar.

 

The last half hour of our drive was most scenic,

Mountains, peaks, trees and my friend breeze.

And then there was a green field,

Spread wide below the blue sky: I shouted,

Wait, atleast let me try.

 

1

 

I stepped down into an Almond farm. I requested the farmer there to let me take some almonds and he was way too pleased. He took me inside and had me choose almonds myself. I took a handful and we moved ahead. I didn’t forget to thank and bid farewell to the farmer.

In Yousmarg, there are three treks- Cherry Field, Doodh Ganga Lake and Nilnag Lake. One can either take horses or can walk up to them. My father and I decided to take horses and my mother and sister walked and we only went to Doodh Ganga.

 

doodh ganga

 

(If you go there too, ask for the horses named Hira and Dhanu. They have the sweetest caretakers. One of them is old and another one young. They will keep you engaged in talks and are extremely careful. Or maybe I am just being partial to my experience (blush).)

On arrival at the Doodh Ganga Lake, I was astonished at the purity of its water, so clean that one can actually drink from it,  as I did. “The water supply of Srinagar goes out from here”, said the horsemen seeing me awestruck by the beauty.

My mother and sister reached after us. And we sat there in solace,

Sharing fruits, Kahwah and almonds we plucked on our way.

It was the picnic spot of my dream.

Blue and Green,

Just like a dream.

I wished we could have checked out the other two tracks but my mother had a back pain. After a while we went back, down to Yousmarg and then to hotel. That night I slept without supper. I wanted to dream!

Next day I woke up curled up in sunlight that stretched from the window to my bed. It was time to move to Gulmarg and however beautiful Srinagar was, Gulmarg was where I wanted to reside. We dressed up, ate, packed and went to Lal Chowk, the most famous market of Srinagar. We bought Pashminas, Kesar, gifts for our family and drove away to Gulmarg, a ride of two hours from Srinagar.}

 

road to gulmarg

 

Wait, I have to stop you here. The journey to Gulmarg will begin in the second half of the article. Let the beauty of what you read be in the waiting for it.
Please do continue with the rest of the travelogue to get the different perspective that my friend has towards her experience in Gulmarg as I have equal inclination to portray it in the best way.

Let us together make it worth our while.

 

Did You Know Kashmir like we do?

Kashmiri restaurant, best kashmiri food

Best Kashmiri Restaurants across India

Best Kashmiri Restaurants across India
A cuisine is the most effective way of expressing the culture of a particular place and as Alex Atala says, “I believe that cuisine is the most important link between nature and culture”, it is also a positive utilization of the magnificent nature. Cuisine is born out of diverseness in society which works as a platform to display the traditional & cultural beliefs of a particular region. And it gradually transcends all geographical boundaries to make a name for itself. It travels fearlessly, unafraid of storms in oceans, eruption of mountains, dryness of desserts and even dense-dark forests of the world to reach people who can’t come to it.
Kashmiri cuisine just like Pashmina is a reflection of Kashmiri culture. It is loved and enjoyed worldwide. A trip to Kashmir is incomplete without the local cuisines like Tabakhmaaz, Shab Deg, Rogan Josh, Bakery tradition (known for its Baqarkhani roti), Kahwah and the multi-course meal Wazwan.
Here is a guide, more or less an experience of Kashmiri food available across our multi-cultural country. I along with my friends have travelled widely in India and we have come across some excellent restaurants that serve Kashmiri food with almost a perfection in taste. For those who want to enjoy and explore Kashmiri cuisine, here are some restaurants located in different cities of India.
1. GULFAM KASHMIRI WAZWAN, New Delhi, Delhi
Kashmiri restaurant in delhi
Delhi is widely dynamic and full of cultural diversity that makes it a hub of multiple cuisines. Gulfam Kashmiri Wazwan is a small food joint in the streets near Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah. If you are seeking really original taste of Kashmiri food, jump on to their Gushtaba and Roganjosh.
Address: Building 5, Basti, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Nizamuddin, New Delhi (+91 9899110786)
2. MATAMAAL, Gurugram, Haryanabest kashmiri restaurant in gurgaon
As we entered the Matamaal restaurant, we were taken aback by its traditional Kashmiri look and soft Kashmiri music that brushed against our skin giving us goose bumps. Unlike other restaurants, Matamaal is full on its menu with Kashmiri vegetarian dishes. And ofcourse, don’t try to forget their Mutton Kanti in non-vegetarian.
Address: 203, DLF City Court, Sikandarpur, Gurgaon (+91 9899499043)

3. AL MADINA KASHMIRI TEA, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Kashmiri tea, Noon chai, pink tea, novelty of lucknow

Are you a Tea lover? Try Kashmiri Tea (Noon Chai), the Novelty of Lucknow. The tea is prepared in a copper kettle (Kashmiri Samovar), is salty in taste, and pink in colour. The Noon chai sustains the essence of its origin and depicts the presence of Kashmiri culture in Lucknow. Find it at Al Madina.
Address: Akbari Gate Nakkhas Lko, Akbari Gate Nakkhas Lko, Chowk, Chowk, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh (+91 93352 96412)

4. ZARPAR, Jaipur, Rajasthan

best kashmiri restaurant in jaipur
Experience Kashmir in Jaipur with the fine dining of Zarpar. The theme based restaurant serves all kinds of Kashmir delicacies and is a perfect place to explore Kashmiri food. The restaurant has a wide ambience and have chosen names and places from Kashmir to describe it, e.g. Dewan Khana (The Fine Dine), Pari Mahal (The House Boat), Tasweer (The Selfie Point) etc. Zarpar is like a miniature of Kashmir in bits.
Address: 9th Floor, SDC Vinay, 38-39, Mauji Colony, Opp. Bharat Petroleum Pump,
Kelgiri Road, Malviya Nagar, Jaipur (+91-9928021666)

5. POUSH, Mumbai, Maharashtra

best kashmiri restaurant in mumbai
After a long stay in Mumbai it was Phirni in Poush that quenched my sweet tooth. I can’t seem to forget the way they made Phirni here, absolutely like in Kashmir. Also, the Mutton Roganjosh added to my satisfying meal. The serene rains of Mumbai and tempting smell of Kashmiri food totally made my visit worth a while at this amzing dinner.
Address: S-25, Floor 2, Phoenix Market City, LBS Road, Kurla, Mumbai (+91 9820113235)

6. HILTON, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

best kashmiri food in chennai
Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the specialty chef of Kashmiri Cuisine in Hilton Hotel is a magician of cooking. Visit the hotel to experience authentic mouth-watering Kashmiri food made by him. I assure you, you will not come out of the dinner without a decision to visit it again. India is indeed incredible that even in Chennai, the essence of Kashmiri food is sustained. This serves as an appropriate example of cuisine being beyond boundaries.
Address: 124/1, Jawaharlal Nehru Rd, Poomagal Nagar, Guindy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
(044 2225 5555)

7. BULAQI KASHMIRI BAKERY, Hyderabad, Telangana

kashmiri bakery
At Bulaqi’s you will find varieties of pastries, snacks, cakes and sweets with Kashmiri touch in it. The Baqerkhani made by the bakery is delicious and well baked. You will not find the variety of desserts elsewhere in Hyderabad other than here. A perfect place for the sweet tooths.
Address: 6-2-922, Khairatabad Road, Hyderabad (+91 9885880726)

And that is where my list ends. I will write more as soon as I get to explore. Also, let us know about your experiences at these places if you ever visit them. We at Kashmiri Life will look forward to your responses.

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Solo Women traveler’s guide to get the best out of Kashmir

“Kashmir is everything that you read in the papers and see in the news channels, but oh it is so much more.”
Kashmir is so much more than you watch on TV; it’s not just me, this is a solo traveller Kanika Gupta, who took to a social travel platform to share her story in her blog titled ‘How Safe is Kashmir’.
Not only her, you’ll be surprised to know that there are many women travellers who’ve enjoyed their solo trip to Kashmir over the past few years. Just like there is a fearful anticipation of a place called ‘Paradise’, Kashmir, true to its name is one of the few places that can fill you with dread and anticipation at the same time. Once you come back from Kashmir, you’ll  not only miss it but also live it every day through your memories just like a beautiful story. That’s what Kashmir is – an experience that grows on you. Ok ok, enough of me bragging about my home, my place; my Kashmir. Now let me help you with some planning that would guaranteed to improve your travel experience in Kashmir.Ready. Set. Go! Brace yourself for this amazing journey to Kashmir and its Kashmiriyat – the culture, people, and the love.dal lake kashmirStay near Srinagar’s iconic and safe Dal Lake. While staring at the mirror-calm waters and its picturesque terrain, you’ll realize why it has been an inspiration for painters through decades.  A joy ride in a Shikara is worth your time and money.

 

jamia masjid srinagar

Spend a few cool hours in the manicured lawns of peaceful Jamia Masjid, Srinagar.

 

tulip garden

Let the burst of colours and the sheer variety of flowers in bloom make you smile. Gasp out loud at the sight of the Tulip Garden in Srinagar.

 

downtown srinagar

Explore downtown Srinagar. Our always helpful locals and a group of canines can snap you out of any kind of bad mood faster than you can think of.

 

Inline 2 _ Kashmiri hospitality

Accept the invite of a Kashmiri family and the warm hospitality will melt down your heart; something very rare to find in media.

kahwa

Get a taste of the world-famous Kashmiri Kahwa served with warmth. You can also visit the exquisite Tea Room, ‘CHAI JAAI’, Srinagar and sip on some great tea.

 

Iftari

If you are fortunate to be in Kashmir during the month of Ramzan break your fast with locals at Iftar.

 

zabarwan hills

Have you ever felt troubled and excited at the same time? Feel two emotions while experiencing the view of setting sun with the Zabarwan hills in the back drop.

 

habba khatoon

Do some soul-searching at the edge of India, Habba Khatoon .Let the beauty take your breath away.

 

shopping

Do some shopping because like Kashmir, each handicraft piece is unique.

 

kashmiri costume

Be a ‘Kashmir ki Kali’ and get your photos clicked in Kashmiri costume.

 

kashmiri kids

Let your favourite souvenir from Kashmir be this photograph with cute kids of the hills, Sonamarg.

 

pahalgam

Walk in the ‘as cold as ice water’ at Pahalgam.

 

doodhpatri

Discover the unexplored jewel called Doodhpathri. Feast your eyes on the velvety green meadows that look like a green carpet.

 

kyber_gulmarg_spa

Take a dip in this hot pool at The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg in the backdrop Snow Mountains with freezing cold temperatures outside.

(Image and Text Source: Gyawun)

I can bet, from the day you return, you will start recommending everyone to visit Kashmir- the heaven at least once in their lives. Such is the magnetism of the place that it will imprison your heart into its memories forever.

We at Kashmiri Life strive to bring out the best  of Kashmir so that next time whenever you start researching about Kashmir on Google you’ll not only get horror stories of curfews, crackdowns, terrorist attacks, stone pelting but a fairer image of a helpful, hospitable, affectionate, humane image of the city.

Come share your experiences of your visit to Kashmir with us!

(All Image Source: http://lifeoutside2by2.com/)

Kashmir

Ramzan in the Chinar Shade, Kashmir

The blessed month of Ramzan is here.
Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and begins with the sighting of the crescent moon. This month has a charm of its own and like everywhere else; the incredible spirit of Ramzan is observed with great vehemence and zeal here in Kashmir.
If you are hoping to know about our Ramzan in Kashmir, we’ve got you covered.  Here are a few basics for a perfect Kashmiri Ramazan and if you are a Kashmiri, you can relate to following things:

 

sehar kha

 

The ‘human alarm’ for residents of Kashmir – The Sehar Khans.
As you know, Ramzan is a month of fast and prayer. Every day from dawn to sunset we observe fast, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Waking up for sehri or the pre-dawn meal while the whole place is cloaked in darkness is a test of the strong will power of Ramzan fasting. But it feels good when you know you are not alone in this. “Waqhtey Sahar!” In the wee hours of the morning, voluntary drummers pierce the silence that wraps the dark valley waking up people for sehri. They are the ‘Sehar Khans’ – the human alarm clocks for residents of Kashmir.

 

How can we forget, recently there was a viral video of a Sikh man waking up Muslim neighbours for Sehri in Jammu and Kashmir’s, Pulwama. This is ‘Kashmiriyat’; this is the communal harmony that has existed in the Paradise for centuries.

 

rice

 

What is a ‘Sehri’ without some rice?
In Kashmiri psyche, rice is a staple. Our Sehri (the pre-dawn meal) is considered incomplete without rice. Followed by rice is our love for ‘gulabi chai’ or ‘pink tea’. The tea is accompanied by the geow-dar csot (bread made with ghee), a Ramazan speciality in Kashmir, made only during this month.

“It is Ramzan” is a common refrain in the Valley.
A regularly recurring phrase during the month of Ramzan. “It is Ramzan and you are making us wait?” or “How can you overcharge during Ramzan?” or “I do not want to fight, it’s Ramzan.”

 

beggars

 

A beggar at our door.
Giving has always brought out the best in people and the month of Ramzan is all about that. Since charity and giving is an integral part of this month, there’s a knock every now and then on your door and no points guessing who it is, beggars. Happens all the time in the Valley.

 

pudding

 

The ‘Dessert of the Month ‘goes to…Phirni!

The all-time favourite snowy phirni is made and offered exclusively for the family and also send to masjid and relatives. The month of Ramzan is arguably the favorite month to indulge in this extremely popular rice pudding. Mom prepares phirni and halwa, made of ghee (clarified butter) for breaking the day-long fast.

 

witing for iftar

 

Waiting for ‘Iftar’ be like..
Your eyes are somehow glued to the clock the entire day. While on other days you have no idea of maghrib prayers (prayed after sunset), during Ramadan the scene is very different. You know the exact time on the tip of your tongue and during the prayers, there’s a lot of coughing which is a signal for the Imam to finish quickly, as the most awaited part of the day is here, Iftar.

 

brabribyol drink

 

A typical Kashmiri Iftari drink – ‘Babribeoul treish’.
Basil seeds put in milk with hint of sugar, that’s how a babribyol sherbet takes its shape. The iconic drink followed by the mandatory dates and water.

 

Kannada

 

Long kandur queues.

Caution: The ridiculous long queues at kandur (bread), might make you feel like killing yourself.
This is an everyday scene in the valley during the whole month of Ramzan. To keep the table ready for iftar, residents start queuing up around noon outside the shops of the kandur, the local bread makers of Kashmir. The kandur take special orders – so visitors can get customised bread made with extra ghee, poppy and sesame seeds.

 

eid shopping

 

The crazy Eid shopping.

Eid is not Eid without some crazy shopping. We, Kashmiris, shop A LOT. How can I forget the almost not visible bakery and meat shops because of the crowd in front of them to the serious fights at the tailor shop to get your salwar stitched on time?
You’ll have to spend a couple of hours there.
Religious chants ‘Afsoos Aze Gowham Judaa, Aiy Mahi Ramzaan Alvida’ – My heart is full of sorrow, Oh! The month of Ramadan, today we part! – are common in the mosques and shrines of Kashmir during the last phase of Ramadan.

 

mehendi

 

Eid is incomplete without young girls applying mehandi. It’s a gala time for Muslims in the valley as well as around the world.

There’s an old saying, we Kashmiris eat more in the month of fasting, Ramzan, than during the rest of the year. The prayers, fasting and feasting of Ramzan leaves all of us eagerly waiting for Eid. And then before you know it, it’s Eid.

 

eid-is-here

 

May this Ramzan usher in for us a period of blessings and abundance.
There seems to be no end to the blessings in Ramzan. Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, “When Ramzan begins, the gates of Paradise are opened.”