Srinagar – On Paper Vs On Site!

thoughtsmkoe.wordpress.comSo last month after much debating we finally went on a vacation to Kashmir better known as “The Heaven On Earth”. In case you couldn’t guess, the debating was due to the fact that it’s currently one of the most disturbed places in India mainly due to the militant insurgencies & has a heavy military presence making it slightly less suitable for a family vacation.

So despite the gory pictures portrayed on the news channels & detailed articles in the newspaper we eventually landed at Srinagar airport, said a personal prayer & headed into the city with the taxi driver appointed to us by our hotel concierge.

Throughout our journey to the boat house (situated on the beautiful Dal Lake) my eyes were on the lookout for the stone pelters & tear bombs that is usually shown on the news.

Dal Lake in Srinagar by thoughtsmoke.wordpress.com
The whole city of Srinagar is built around the serene Dal Lake

But to my surprise Srinagar looked as normal as any other Tier-II city in India. Just as our Innova left the airport I even saw a case of road rage aka Delhi style where two drivers were arguing ostensibly right in the middle of the road without giving a care to the traffic chaos that they were causing. Felt like home!

So, after all the “action” we proceeded to our boat house where we were supposed to stay

Dal Lake Kashmir by thoughtsmoke.wordpress.com
Evenings on Dal Lake in a Shikara is an experience

for one night. The city seemed to be as peaceful as the lake. Its basically in the valley surrounded by mountains on all sides. Like most Indian cities here too you could find unruly traffic and littering as well as squatters everywhere.

After dumping our luggage we went to the famous Shalimar Garden. It was built during the Mughal era. Apart from the elaborate watering system it has some age old trees. But basically its a well-manicured garden which on account of it being a sunday, was full of local families having picnic. The half-naked kids playing in the fountains was hardly what we were expecting from the supposedly violent area with policemen getting murdered on a daily basis. To tell you the truth, the whole scene seemed just like Red Fort in Delhi on a weekend.

In the next two days we visited the beautiful Sonmarg valley and the playful Pahalgam

Sonmarg Valley by thoughtsmoke.wordpress.com
The Beautiful Sonmarg Valley in Kashmir

village. Albeit extensive military presence there was no anxiety or hysteria among the local crowd as is often portrayed in our national newspapers and news channels.

On our way to Pahalgam from Srinagar we even stopped for half an hour at the Saffron farms and bought some while enjoying the famous Kashmiri beverage called “Kahwa”. It’s a kind of tea made with various locally available spices & dry fruits – amazing for the palate and healthy for the body given the cold climate.

hotel pahalgam by thoughtsmoke.wordpress.com
Hotel Pahalgam

All in all we enjoyed the valley in peace and even spent a playful two three hours on the banks of the bubbling Lidder River. A Kashmiri family near us were cooking a delicious meal on their makeshift stove while the kids were taking a dive in the chilly waters.

thoughtsmoke.wordpress.com
Lidder River Kashmir

Despite the fact that many families are torn apart due to the terrorist activities in the valley, so much bloodshed; so many people killed, the locals have a never say die attitude which is hard to miss. What I took away from the trip is the spirit of people of Kashmir which basically represents the Indian spirit in general. Even in turbulent times we never stop living our lives to the fullest & that’s how it should be, isn’t it?!

 

 

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