Almost 20 years to the day we were in Kashmir once again.
Kashmir has been our family’s favourite holiday destination by a long shot. The last time I was there with my family comprising of my parents and sister was in June 1989. I had just graduated from high school and was awaiting the results of my Engineering entrance examinations.
I did not know it then, it was a sort of coming of age trip for me. Soon I would head away from home to join the engineering college, the valley will burst into flames and my uncle who lived in the valley (he was a Professor at the Kashmir University), would pack his bags and leave to settle down in Delhi. My sister would start at the medical school in Aligarh, my father would retire from work and eventually move from Indore to settle down in Lucknow. Life would change forever.
However, we knew nothing of this then.
I remember the train journey from Indore to Jammu and than onwards to Srinagar by road. I remember walking up to the Shankaracharya temple and the view of the Srinagar city. I remember our visit to the Mughal gardens, Shalimar, Nishat and Chashm-e-Shahi in full bloom and in magnificent splendour and the massive chinars. I remember us gorging on the walnut pastries, buying dry fruits by the sackful and my mother and aunt shopping in the Lal Chowk. I remember the Shikara rides on the Dal from Hazrat Bal to Nishat right across the lake and to Char Chinar and the Nehru Park, islands in the lake.
I also remember our trips to Gulmarg, marred by a sudden downpour chilling us to the bone, and to Sonamarg, the ‘meadows of Gold’ and our trek to the Thajwas glacier. And their was the botanical garden in Kokarnag, with roses so magnificent and huge and in so many bewildering colours that they took ones breath away, the calm waters of the lake Manasbal and the meadows in Yousmarg, where we were caught unawares by a sudden hailstorm.
The day we were to head back home, I stood at the railings in Nehru Park on the Dal and promised myself that one day sometime soon I shall return to this valley again. I had no idea of the things to come and how this eternal paradise will soon be engulfed in flames.
Years went by, but the desire and the allure of the valley never dimmed. Last year I had the occasion to travel to Srinagar on work and many of these cherished memories came flooding back. The tug of the valley was now so strong that I knew the day was not far, when I will be back with my family.
I planned a trip in August last year, which we had to cancel because of the sudden flaring of tensions in the valley following the Amarnath yatra. My wife and I went to Laddakh instead.
This summer, finally I took my parents and family back to Kashmir. A promise I had made to myself as a gawky teenager 20 years ago was finally fulfilled. We spent some wonderful days together.
More of that and my views on Kashmir in the next few posts.
Pic courtesy the author