My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June, when movin’ through Kashmir….
This was what Led Zepplin had to say for Kashmir. A place that captured the fancy of kings, poets, rockstars and saints alike. But I often wonder if Jammu & Kashmir has really caught up as a travel destination apart from the Dal Lake and those glitzy, much loved by media, places.
While the city of Rajasthan made for an obvious choice for our first pick as a destination that has something for each one of the five senses, my mind lingered on Kashmir. A place so rich in its culture and the sheer beauty of it that it simply claimed its place for the second post in the series. Trying to steer clear of the obvious and much known, let me take you through a different ride of the very lovely valley of Jammu & Kashmir. Starting with, eyes.
Lo and behold
If you, by some chance, meet a genie before the Kashmir trip, ask for another pair of eyes. Yes, for there’s so much to gaze at here that a set of eyes is simply not enough. Watch the sun take a dip in the waters of Nagin Lake, or soak in the unending beauty from the Gondola ride at Gulmarg. Or maybe, sleep in a meadow. If nothing of the above, hire a bicycle and go down the roads that have Chinar trees standing as guards.
Breathe in, breathe in
Whenever I think of Jammu & Kashmir, a heady fragrance comes rolling in. Heady yet subtle. It makes your head go fuzzy, but with a softness that might reminds of mother’s touch on your “burning in fever’’ forehead. I ask you to roll down the car windows (prefer getting a bike) while you roam at Gulmarg, for there are acres of wildflowers that dance in the wind. And eh.. there’s Pampore, where a very nimble, giddiness-inducing smell of saffron makes you fall in love with almost everything!
Hush, saying ‘calories’ is banned
Yes, yes. ‘Calories’ is a word that’s best suited to metropolitans. At least Kashmir and Kashmiris don’t entertain this word. For the ones who like it simple, there’s a simple word – Wazwan. It’s a multi-course speciality of the state which includes Rogan Josh, Dum Olav, Goshtaba, Yakhni and more. And if you’re really really worried of all those calories, there’s Kahwa, a tea that only the folks from Kashmir can brew right. The recipe is a tightly kept secret; nevertheless, you can have cup (I say jugs) full of it when you’re here.
Of poetry, folk music, sufism and more
This is the land of Lal Ded, better known as Lalla. A poet, who wrote verses so profound that they became music. Now, what would you expect of such a land? Sufism and folk music (remember that much loved instrument known as chakri?) still rules the roost in Jammu & Kashmir, imparting an earthiness to some out of the world tunes. Wander off to a remote village to hear the musical rendition of the tale of Laila Majnu, or sit by the side of a fakir who breaks into a song every now and then. Trust me, there are plenty of that sort here.
Coming to the sense of touch, I must say that you would definitely be touched by the warmth of this state’s people. But since we are talking of things in more tangible terms, let me tell you of the indescribable softness of the very famous cashmere wool of the state. Plus, there’s pashmina. Yes, it’s not banned. What is banned is shahtoosh, often confused with pashmina. Pack in a muffler or a shawl for the granny waiting back at home. If nothing else, you would be touched by her honest, maybe toothless, smile.
While you go on this 5 Senses Trip, let us know if you find it as interesting as we did. Plus, share your ideas, feedback and more. In the meanwhile, we are scouring for the next pick in the series. Happy travelling.
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