It has always been known as “jannat“, or heaven. The valley – as Kashmir is commonly known – conjures paradisiacal images. Everywhere you look, the landscape is picture postcard perfect.
In the lap of such bountiful natural beauty, we wondered what life is really like. Turns out, the answer wasn’t so straightforward.
The valley has been stuck in an internal strife for ever now. Life here reminds us of a bygone era. Stories of struggle and loss in the midst of what feels like heaven is a paradox too difficult to digest. For this reason, our visit to the valley was an intense experience.
And yet, the people’s hospitality far surpassed anything we had ever imagined. From a fruit seller who offered us tea to our co-passengers insisting we stay with them, not in hotels. A tourism officer and his wife we chanced upon meeting, not only showed us around but also took us home and had us stay in their children’s room. Another one asked us if we were sure we weren’t falling short of funds!
This story is an attempt to showcase the beautiful people from a beautiful place.
First up, the kids from Kashmir
You would have met some earlier in our story “Kids of the Hills…“.
Their rosy cheeks, bright red lips, and kohl-lined eyes made us wonder why parents would apply makeup to such little kids. Soon we realised our foolishness. The “make up” was in fact put by nature!
Cheeks as red as the luscious apples that grow here and eyes that talked volumes, we were smitten by the kids at first sight!
This is Rauf from a small village Chittergul. He had come to play by the stream along with his brothers. While his older brothers played some competitive games, Rauf was just running around, trying to emulate them.
In the midst of the pine and fir trees with a stream flowing by, surrounded by the Himalayas, this is a playground of a privileged few. No wonder then, their games are so simple!
On the face of it, everything about life here was different than life as we know it. But a little conversation and the simple similarities were evident.
Like, the rules this girl had to follow in the school she went to.
A hangout doesn’t always involve Google! A laid back market place shall do.
Verinag, a small town in South Kashmir offers such a place. Old men, attired traditionally, in firan (loose woolen coat), with kangdi (basket with red-hot charcoal pieces) keeping them warm, sharing a hookah/sheesha is as idyllic as it gets.
For many families, the animals – mainly sheep and horses are a major source of livelihood. For them, life revolves around their flocks.