Days in Kashmir When It Was Idyll Place
Kashmir is India's northernmost state. It is a very picturesque place with beautiful people. It is reported that when the Mughal emperor Jahangir visited Kashmir he was struck by its awesome beauty and exclaimed ' if there is heaven then this is it.'
But the entire valley is now under the boots of the soldiers after Islamic terrorists inspired by Pakistan infiltrated to create havoc among the people. Kashmir is a Muslim majority state and the militants have been appealing to them in the name of Islam to rise against India. There is talk of Jihad and the Hindu minority in the valley has been expelled.
All this is well-known but what people should note that before the militancy inspired by Pakistan, the Kashmir Valley was literally like the garden of Eden. I visited Kashmir many times and the first time I visited was with my girlfriend an American when the valley was calm and Tranquille.
Srinagar was a wonderful place and it had a number of bars where one could sit and have a glass of whiskey. There were excellent places to eat with some high-class restaurants and the city was alive late into the nights during the tourist season. The Dal lake was simply beautiful and spending time in the houseboats was like a dream come true. It was so safe to travel around and the greatest pleasure one could get was getting into a Shikara and the boatman taking you all over the lake to a small island where you could have excellent lamb meat.
The boatman would also pilot the boat to houses on the edge of the lake and you could enter the houses from the boat and buy the local handicraft. I used to wonder what a lovely place Kashmir is.
The capital and tours
Srinagar the capital had excellent avenues lined with big shops. Two places to visit were Hazratbal and the Hindu Temple atop the hill. Visiting these places was a revelation because everything was so calm and serene.
You could take a trip around Wulur lake and Manasbal Lake. Kashmir tourism had lovely resorts and you could stay there and partake of good food. Alcohol was not taboo and everybody was very tolerant. Our taxi driver told us that he was very happy here and would not like to go to a country like Pakistan. That was the mood of the people.
Two resorts which were a must-visit were at Pahalgam and Gulmarg. Both places are simply beautiful with gushing natural streams and large grassy meadows. Gulmarg had a wonderful golf course and I remember playing a nine-hole game there.
Gulmarg was much colder than Srinagar and at night both of us would sozzle ourselves with a few drinks of Chivas regal and then hit the bed. It was almost like having come to a part of paradise. From Pahalgam, you could take a pony with a guide and go up to a lake higher up in the mountains and there you could see floating chunks of ice in the freshwater lake. I remember my pony almost slipped and it gave me a heartbeat but he soon recovered and we carried on.
Resorts and mountains
The valley in those days had a number of resorts and they had the most modern facilities and best of all some of them had well-stocked bars. Kashmir is nestled in the Himalayas which as we all know are the highest mountains in the world. If you want to trek in the mountains there is no better place then Kashmir and you can go up to Sonamarg and many other places.
If you came in winter then you will find the entire valley covered with a blanket of snow and it's all white all around. Visiting Gulmarg at that time is a great challenge and if you are a skier you can ski down the mountain slopes.
One can make Srinagar the base and then travel all around the valley. It's a wonderful place for people who are in love at least used to be. It's a swell place to spend time in a houseboat, explore the Dal Lake in a Shikara, and take long treks in the mountain slopes of the Himalayas. You could play golf at Gulmarg and in winter come down to ski. Srinagar itself was a vibrant city and I remember myself and my friend enjoying a lovely time at the hotel Broadway with the girl belting English songs.
All this is a dream now and the paradise has gone. Why this has happened? nobody can tell and in any case I don't want to do any analysis. The memories of the Kashmir of those days live with me and have fond memories trekking in the mountains with my girl and playing golf at Gulmarg and spending two exotic nights in a houseboat. God save Kashmir.