It was a month before my graduation exams and I was stressed, studying for my dissertation. I don’t know when he booked the tickets, but I was completely flabbergasted when my father announced that he had bought a ten day trip to Kashmir. He knew I wanted to visit it, and it was on my bucket list for quite some time. Whilst I was thrilled, I was also worried. My dad placed his warm, stubby hand on my head and said: “It’s time to let go of all worries. Let’s go on this trip, you will experience the joy of a lifetime.”
The moment I arrived there, I knew I was in paradise. Gulmarg, a quaint town nestled in the mountainous terrain of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is rightfully called ‘heaven on earth’. It is filled with pristine beauty of tall pine trees, sturdy rosewood, and mahogany forests, and a canopy full of rare sandalwood trees and fruit orchards. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is called; ‘The Crown of India’, due to its distinct physical structure, offering it the picturesque shape of a crown bestowed upon India.
Gulmarg, a quaint town nestled in the mountainous terrain of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is rightfully called ‘heaven on earth’
We were travelling in March, when the heavy winter was replaced by a slow, blossoming summer. It was the beginning of the harvest festival in Gulmarg. Kashmir is famously known all over the world for its apple orchids, tulips and Pashmina wool. We shopped at the local markets and bought the world-renowned Kashmiri Pashmina, also known as cashmere, which is a luxurious fabric made from the softest and finest wool of the Himalayan mountain goats. We also bought a kilo of saffron, which cost us a fortune, and ate a lot of spicy mutton and chicken kebabs. Kashmir experiences severely cold winters for almost eight months of the year, so its locals have a habit of consuming the hottest and spiciest of foods to keep their bodies warm. We had Paya and Yakhni soup which is a hot mutton soup. Out of all the dishes, Kashmiri Biryani was my favourite. The saffron rice, the amalgamation of various spices, and dry fruits which were new to my palette just sealed the deal for me. I had completely let go and immersed myself in whatever Kashmir had to offer me.
Kashmir experiences severely cold winters for almost eight months of the year, so its locals have a habit of consuming the hottest and spiciest of foods to keep their bodies warm.
We spent one beautiful evening at the Dalhousie Lake and shopped various tulips and lotus bouquets to take back to our hotel rooms. We tried on the traditional clothes called ‘Pheran’ and the Kashmiri Sari called ‘Jamewar.’ I remember going for morning walks into the meadows and hills of Gulmarg, starting my day not by diving into emails and Instagram, but listening to the chirping of the Myna bird, the Himalayan woodpecker and little sparrows and parrots. Since it was the beginning of the spring season, the forest of Gulmarg had gone into bloom ode, spraying exotic, woody fragrances of flowers all around. We spotted a couple of peacocks and ducks too. Nature was at its best in Gulmarg, in the rising season of spring.
The people of Gulmarg are kind and helpful. Their local language is Urdu, which to me sounded like drops of unadulterated honey. They would greet us as soon as we stepped out of the house and we would often end our evening of travel with a hot cup of Kashmiri Kahwa, the local tea, made by boiling green tea leaves with local saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and occasionally Kashmiri roses. It is served with sugar or honey and crushed nuts, usually almonds or walnuts.
Despite being exhausted I felt rejuvenated. The trip has taught me the value of being humble and kind to yourself while being hardworking and resilient. It taught me to find happiness in the smallest things and to never let our problems conquer us. My dad gave me the experience of a lifetime, and I shall be forever indebted to him and the auspicious, holy land of Kashmir.