Our Vacation in Kashmir

सुना था, पृथ्वी का स्वर्ग हैं कश्मीर । कुछ महीने ख़्याल आया यमुना के साथ अपनी शादी की हीरक जयन्ती मनाने का। सोचा असली स्वर्ग तो देख न पाऊँगा फिर अपने देश में जो स्वर्ग है उसे क्यों न देख लूँ इस मौक़े पर । बिना किसी को बताये हुये सारी ब्यवस्था की और काश्मीर पहुँच गये, यमुना के साथ ।
First day: We spent the evening in a wonderful sikara ride in Dal Lake.

Second Day: Pahalgam We saw six points, the last the best, Baisaran with wonderful marvellous meadows with tall pine trees and snow clad mountains at distance at 8000 ft from sea level on ponies. The car journey through NH1 along River Lidder was pretty good through rice fields with going on rice transplantation and many shops of Kashmiri dry fruits of various types. We could also see Apple gardens and walnut trees. As I love the archeological sites, I stopped for Martand Temple while returning.

Third Day: Sonmarg along River Sindhu, a tributary of the main Pakistani river, Thajwas Glacier from distance through local Sumo. Except for the snow capped mountains, the experience was not very good, as we could not take the pony ride up to the glacier.

Fourth Day: We went to Gulmarg, good road NH1 and Gulmarg Road; real nice winding valley at 8000 ft from sea level. The drive up to the top for hotel was really wonderful because of the winding road and exciting scenes from the heights.

Fifth Day: Gandola ride up to second stage at 14500 ft from sea level in Gulmarg, up to base from the hotel by snow scooter. I wish there could be a better way to reach the base of the Gandola, and the facility could be more user-friendly for older people. The cleanliness and entertainment facility such as sledge cars at the top was not up to the mark.

Sixth Day: Visited an emporium and an artisan house in a village off Gulmarg road while returning to Srinagar.

I was talking with my driver in Srinagar who comes from a well-to-do family. He is on Facebook too. According to him, the centre does not help the state government so the roads are bad. I tried in my own way to convince him. But it appears a lot of marketing is to be done about the role of state. Srinagar could become Jannat, if Swachh Bharat Aviyan could get a special boost here. The help must come from all in community and particularly institution responsible and involved in the task- municipality, all DMs, IPS officers. Even army with that large a presence can assist. The schools and college must be encouraged to participate. People at large here are very intelligent.

June 13, 2015. I had two engagements while returning to Srinagar from Gulmarg. In the first I met a Kashmiri family of the artisan with wife and three daughters, that engages itself in the fine needlework on the famous pashmina shawls in a village off the Gulmarg Road. In the second I met the deputy director of tourism, J&K and complained against the dismal condition of services provided for thousands of tourists by the providers, and the government must intervene and improve it by providing a feedback forms on the front desks of hundreds of hotels. Both gave me some personal satisfaction.

Seventh day: June 14 (60th marriage anniversary), climbed up to Sankaracharya Temple 290 stairs, built at 1000 ft from sea level by, as some says by King Ashoka’s son Jaluka or Jehangir; Salimar Bagh built by Jehangir for his wife Noor Jehan, Pari Mahal of Dara Shikoh, the son of Shahjahan of Taj Mahal fame and ended with a Shikara ride in Dal Lake, 32 sq. kms in area with Char Chinari, its stationary house boats and floating boats of various types of vendors and shops.

I made two special entries in Facebook:
शादी के साठवें साल गिरह पर

सोने की रातें थीं
चाँदी के दिन
सपनों से बेहतर थे
बीते वे साठ साल
चलते, लड़ते, सँभलते
खोजते नई नई राहें
नये गीत
नयी प्रीत
चलो आज भूलें सब
याद करें मधुर क्षण
मधुर सब
लिये आश….
बीत जाये
बाक़ी भी एेसे ही…..
June 14, 2015, Some Scary Experiences: The day being the 60th wedding anniversary, Our first programme was for visiting the Sankaracharya Temple. Yamuna had to stay back at the base station, as it meant to climb some 290 stair steps before reaching the temple. I was alone but took the decision to reach the temple. It is with a huge Lingam in a cave like crude structure. I realised that I was now nearing 76 years of my age and perhaps old by the definition based on age. It was tiring. I was getting breathing difficulty and I had to rest at the flat portions built in after every few stair steps. It was scary, as I was alone. At one point I thought of returning. But I got inspired by the people going ahead- the kids, young and old too – and going up. The last part of the day was to be in sikara for an hour in the evening in Dal Lake. We were enjoying the beauty of the lake. But ver soon, the wind became cool. It became a little too much windy soon and when the water splashed in the sikara, we got scared for a while. However, this time Yamuna was with me along with boat man. A second boat man also joined us to assist in steering the boat, as the owner was seeing the boat and the weather condition from the bank. Very soon we started enjoying it. Yamuna could not visit the temple. But in sikara we were together, got photographed in Kashmiri dress for remembrance, enjoyed the ride and also the Kashmiri kahwa at a floating shop.

June 15, Because of a tyre burst of an Air India flight on the runway of Srinagar Airport, all incoming and outgoing flights got cancelled. We had to stay in Srinagar.
जन्नत से अपने घर ….ख़ुशनुमा मौसम और यह चिपचीपी गरमी.. यही अन्तर है… पर घर की सागरोटी जन्नत में नहीं मिलती….

Kashmir Visit- a simple inference: Kashmiris can easily make the state most developed with highest per capita income. As the saying goes, ‘पहले शकल, फिर अकल’। शक्ल सभी की भगवान ने ही अच्छी दे दी है। Only if the Kashmiri parents start focusing on the modern education of their kids-both girls and boys, the state can go ahead of other states. They can get into all sorts of jobs in all over India. काश्मीरी बड़े हुनरवान हैं और घर से हाथ का काम कर हीं अच्छी कमाई कर लेते हैं परिबार के लिये, चाहे क़ालीन बुनना हो या शाल पर कढ़ाई करनी हो या लकड़ी या काग़ज़ की बस्तुयें बनानी हो। कब कुछ लोग इन्हें गुमराह करना छोड़ेंगे। होटलों में लडकें इतनी तमीज़ से बात करते हैं । हाँ, लड़कियाँ अभी उतनी तादाद में नहीं आ रहीं हैं।

Eighth Day: Yusmarg, about 65 kms from Srinagar, very mesmerising scenic huge meadow. As the story goes, Jesus Christ passed through Yusmarg valley. The “Yus” of Yusmarg is the short form of Youza or Jesus and marg means a meadow.

Near the villages of Naugam and Nilmag, about 40 kilometers south of Srinagar is a large plain called the Yuz Marg, the meadow of Jesus. It is said that from Murree, Jesus proceeded to Srinagar entering Kashmir from the pass now called Yuz Marg, and he rested at Aish Muqam, about 50 miles south of Srinagar, where a sanctuary was erected containing the horns of ‘God’s ram’ and a walking stick that is considered Moses’ stick, later used by Jesus. It is also here that some of the tribes of Israel are supposed to have settled after 722 BCE to live as shepherds, which is still a major occupation in the area today.

Finally, after a lot of worried moments we could get a flight from the airliner for June 17 at 5.15PM from Srinagar reaching Noida home by 9pm via Chandigarh. As my cell phone has a prepaid shim, I could not use it in Kashmir. J&K allows only the use of post-paid cell phone. But with pretty good Wi-Fi in hotels, I could remain in contact with Anand and Rajesh.

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