Kashmir-paradise on earth!!! And so sang Emperor Jahangir, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and countless others. The splendor and salubriousness of the Kashmir valley is legendary! In the words of the greatest of the Sanskrit poet Kalidas, Kashmir is “more beautiful than the heaven and is the benefactor of supreme bliss and happiness.” Kashmir’s greatest historian Kalhan called it the “best place in the Himalayas” – “a country where the sun shines mildly…”
Honestly however, I was astonished why people or writers talk about Kashmir so much. As a child growing up in Kashmir, I had never thought it to be a paradise or much of something else because I saw every morning the same- the same ‘chinars’ (Kashmir maple trees, the same ‘shikaras’ (the houseboats that dot lakes in the valley) the same men & women’s wearing ‘Fehran’ (traditional dress of Kashmir) with ‘kangdi’ (a small stove that can be carried close to the body)………& so on……!!!
It is only much later when I moved out of the valley, and came Delhi for my further studies that I realized that I was missing my home town. I was very eagerly waiting for summer holidays and was counting the days to go back at my place. Finally summer holidays arrived and I reached Jammu & took my bus from there. I remember my bus seat number still (ha ha ha). It was 22, second seat from back side with window and hence good to be lost in reminisces with little disturbance from others. I crossed the ‘Banihal’ tunnel and suddenly I got goose bumps on my arms. I opened my eyes and peeped outside from the window. It was a scene dotted with hills l around with clouds capping their tops. I have seen this kind of scenes so many of times but I never realised that this could evoke this kind of feeling before this moment. I have lost count as to how many times I have crossed this road before, but I was feeling that this is the first time, this scene has unfolded before my eyes. I could slowly begin too comprehend as to how among many attractive places in India, Kashmir is one of the must visit destination. I felt proud that this is my ‘own my mother land’, and could understand what Nehru meant when he wrote to Indira Gandhi from ‘Kashmir’, ‘The motherland sends her greetings’.
I thought at that moment, “Is it really that I am going home or is it that I am about to land in the heaven?” It was amazing that I could converse with the cold wind outside. Actually the wind was complaining that the Chinar plants make it very difficult for her to move. I remember telling the wind to ask them very gently and maybe they will let her pass sweeping by them and ruffling their leaves on the way that would seem to dance on the breeze. I felt one with the nature in a space where peace and love flow in abundance. I was enjoying the company of the clouds, Chinar trees, cold wind, flowers, fountains….everything was talking with me and telling me that I was looking beautiful compared to last time I was here, and how my white dress suited me. The cloud requested me to buy a white dress for her the next time. While talking to my friends outside the window, suddenly I realized that somebody was staring at me from another bus. In the beginning I ignored him but still thought that something was fishy. Nevertheless, I continued my talk with the clouds as I was in love with my beautiful place on the earth and was seeing it through the eyes with which the poets and writers must have seen this majestic place.
Coming back to my fellow passenger, I do not know why the guy was staring at me. Later, I realized that he was actually trying to talk with me. In any case at the moment feeling a little scared, I closed my eyes for a while & when I opened my eyelids, I was in Srinagar & my fellow passenger was standing in front of me. I took a long breath and was just about to shout at him as to what he wanted? But before that he blurted, that there was a message for me ….I was shocked!!! He said that the Chinar tree at the Tunnel was shouting back that please buy a kangdi for him because cold wind disturbs him at night while he wants to sleep. It was then that I realized that I had been talking aloud with my friends of the valley. I just smiled at him and thanked him for conveying the message.
This was my best journey to Kashmir ever. Kashmir is the land of sparkling rivers, sleepy lakes, startling gardens and regal Chinar trees. It is attention grabbing to see how this endless beauty of nature never fails to charm with its changing scenes from alluring white snow of winters to blooming fragrance of spring. The valley of Kashmir is unique in its exotic beauty which is reflected in its picturesque landscapes, lush green forests of Chinar, deodar and pine trees, beautiful rivers, waterfalls and snow covered mountains.
I was late to discover that my place has such kind of beauty……but I love it because I feel it in my soul……..