Once upon a time, the universe created a baby girl of exquisite features and personality. She was simultaneously warm and cold, her sorrow was the rain and her laughter sunshine. Draped in the hues of green, brown and blue, she grew up to become an elegant lady, grace in her poise and endurance in her soul. And so the universe crowned her, with a tiara as graceful, as elegant and as enduring as she. As time passed, the lady became more and more coveted and wars waged in her name, for a piece of her beauty, for a piece of her drapes, for just the act of war, or for her crown. Again and again, the battles ensued and her heart broke. She wanted peace. As she aged, her back stooped with the weights of her history where men tried to have their way with her, treat her like a ‘win’ to stroke their egos. But while the lady aged, the tiara remained timeless and yet coveted. I visited the crown, a few days back. The lady allowed me to hold her crown in my hands and see it closer than I had ever seen it, and for that I’m obliged and humbled.
Kashmeer. A land that’s been ravished, bartered and made infamous. A land so breathtakingly beautiful that it breaks your heart at the knowledge of the infamy. I never knew what ‘crisp air’ meant till I visited Kashmir and experienced the unique sound of pine and maple leaves ruffling together with the wind whistling and the nearby brook adding a rhythmic, gurgling applause; the nip in the air just right to make the nose go red and make the body shiver in pleasure. The air here is crisp, the sights – unadulterated, the sounds beat any music I’ve ever heard and the people are simple and kind.
That first day, the Maajhi steered us along the Dal Lake in a Shikara and pointed out the floating villages, where rowing boats to reach school, or to get other provisions was as common as driving a car on roads is to us. Just a mode of conveyance, yet so unique to me. I was the outsider here, yet how easily I could have been on the other side. During that shikara ride, I was acutely aware of how little of our lives we have in our hands, how easily I could have been born anywhere on earth and for the first time in a long time I was grateful for the life I have led and will lead, grateful for my family and for all those who take the time out to say a kind hello to me, when they don’t have to. I silently prayed and asked for forgiveness for my errors, because what better place to do so, than the place hailed as heaven on earth?
All those ‘touristy’ outings of horseback riding in Sonamarg, climbing three hundred odd steps of Shankaracharya Temple, buying Kesar en route to Pahalgam or taking the cable car at Gulmarg could not compare to the ‘evenings free for leisure’, where we took less trodden pathways. While my mother smelled the flowers, I loved the pungent smell of the leaves, the feel of icy cold water, the cool of the stones weathered by water, looking unendingly at the grassy meadows where horses and sheep grazed freely, undisturbed.
And then I would spot an armed army man. Every kilometer has an armed army/ Kashmiri police man keeping an alert eye out. It’s sad. I know why this crown needs protection. I just wish things were better. There are tell-tale signs of the unrest that has preceded my stay. Graffiti on street walls asking to free Kashmir has been loosely disguised. Banners have been put up to advertise the Indian Army as friends of the Kashmiri folks. The knowledge that ‘freedom’ is such a versatile word here disturbed my equilibrium.
The equilibrium, however was quickly set right by a fellow Kashmiri boy… a boy with such incredible eyes, I wanted to curl up and die a happy death in those eyes. A boy who while talking to my mother, kept glancing beyond her shoulder to me and whose this action caused a matched reaction from my end. During a brief three odd minute gap, while mother walked ahead, I gathered that he was a few years younger to me, seeing that he was in his second year of graduation. But who cared! I hadn’t had a crush in a long time, and I couldn’t control my increasing fondness! His face is still clear in my mind, the memory makes me grin uncontrollably, and who can control spontaneous combustion*, especially in the setting so spectacular?
Kashmeer. A land that’s ravished, bartered and made infamous. A land so breathtakingly beautiful that it breaks your heart at the knowledge of the infamy. A land that is worth all the poetry written to its name. A land that has kept a piece of my vagabond heart! A land you can’t experience just by the words of an amateur writer. Take a trip, go with an open mind and an open heart, have faith in unending nature’s beauty and visit a paradise on earth.
* Spontaneous Combustion –https://harsimrankapoor.wordpress.com/random-thoughts/spontaneous-combustion/