The following is a detailed account of the sweet memories which I always carry with me and cherish whenever I am reminded of them from time to time. Read it and enjoy every moment. This is all about the nature’s beauty of Kashmir Valley before the Mass-Exodus of Kashmiri-Pandits.
A regular visitor to Kashmir during my college days in the summers
The summers have set in and the scorching heat suddenly takes you to the imaginations of nature’s cool places which have the mountain tops covered with snow. I am reminded of my summer holidays during my college time. I used to be a regular visitor to Kashmir for at least a couple of months when I used to get the Summer vacations for two months. During this time I used to visit the far-flung areas of Kashmir valley-where the real beauty of nature was hidden.
This was the time before the Mass-Exodus Of Kashmiri-Pandits
I am referring to the period of the late seventies and early eighties. That was the time when there was no violence in the valley and the terrorist activities were not at all even in one’s imagination. When I recall that time I realize that it was perhaps the jinx of bad omen cast upon that beauty bestowed with the real richness of nature in the whole valley.
Kashmiri Pandits would not have even dreamt in their wildest of dreams that such a precarious condition would be happening to them and they had to leave in thousands of the same beautiful valley-which was their birthplace. Now the stories are being exposed through the various means of media-which gives shrill down the spine. This valley was otherwise called the valley of Rishis and Philosophers, blessed with enormous beauty and peace.
My college summer vacations in Kashmir
Here is a small description of the beauty of Kashmir valley-which I was lucky enough to cherish and enjoy during those college days:
Nature's beauty in Kashmir
My maternal grandfather after his retirement had opened a distribution work of medicines in partnership with his very old friend who was a Punjabi. The name of the shop was M/S Marigold Traders. They used to distribute the medicines of some of the established companies to all the nook and corners of Kashmir including the interiors and micro interiors like the sub-cities & villages etc. So, once I reached Srinagar I too used to go to this shop with my grandfather and spend some time there. I used to see how they were conducting their functioning. They had appointed the people known as runners-who used to take the medicines with their bills duly raised and hand over the same to the different shops and even to some dispensing doctors who placed their orders with them. In this process, there used to be a particular beat per day in the week for a particular sub-city or village, where these runners were allocated their respective areas to be catered to. So while I was there during June and July-my grandfather allowed me to go with them in the different directions of the valley and be with them till the evening and spend the time touring these beautiful places in the process.
Used to do taxi tours with distributors
Now, while there used to be a regular touring of these runners-the Medical Reps of these bigger companies for which my grandfather was distributing their medicines-also used to book a Taxi or a cab and take these runners with the goods along with them. In this exercise, the runners used to get a larger area to be covered in one day because of the cab instead of the bus and also a big comfort of the cab. I too used to attach myself to them and go in the same Taxi to the areas wherever they went. I used to enjoy it a lot and could see those areas which otherwise I would not have visited at all. Since any tourist who comes to Kashmir goes to only the fixed and popular tourist spots-I got the chance to go to such interiors which were even more beautiful and enjoyable than those commercialized tourist spots. I must admit that I was fortunate enough to have visited such places which even the "Locals" must not have gone to.
With such microinterior tours, I could see almost the whole of the valley
With this exercise, I could go to areas like Achhabal, Verinaag, Kukarnaag, etc in south Kashmir other than Pahalgam, Anantnag, Qazigund, etc are normally covered by all the Tourists who come to Kashmir. Likewise, I could reach Sonamarg, Daksum, and areas like Bandipur, Handwara, Kangan, Baramulla, Tangmarg, Gulmarg, etc in the north and northwest areas of Kashmir. I have touched the most popular sub-city areas like Sopore, Baramulla, Pampore, Nav-game, Tral, Uri, etc areas also. I remember having gone in the car with my grandfather and his friend to the Chowki-Bal area-where his friend had his large forest areas and used to deal with the army as a contractor, in those border areas.
Any tourist normally visits these 'Mughal gardens'
Anybody who comes to Srinagar as a tourist normally goes to the popular areas like Mughal gardens-like Cheshma-Shahi, Nishat-Bagh, Shalimar-Bagh, etc, and the beautiful Dal-Lake and its surrounding “Boulevard Road”. But these people are not lucky enough to go to the above-mentioned areas-where the actual culture of Kashmir is reflected in their people. I had another very good advantage of knowing the Kashmiri language. Since I knew the language, I used to understand the psyche of those people very well and even converse with them very comfortably. Language advantage makes a big difference when you are traveling to some new place.
A pious temple of Lord Shiva on the top of a small mountain
While being in Srinagar proper, I used to go on foot every day in the morning to Shankaracharya Temple which was situated at the top of the small hill overshadowing the big Dal Lake from one side and the southern end of Srinagar from the opposite side. I remember I used to start at 6.00 AM daily and reach the Temple Top by 7.00 AM. While coming down the hill it used to take lesser time and I could reach my place at Jawahar Nagar by 7.45 AM. This daily exercise was very good and for the rest of the day, I used to feel fresh and kicking.
Even regular outings with my family members were memorable
With my family members, I used to go to these Mughal gardens on some Sunday-which for me was not that much of an attraction. Nevertheless, it used to be memorable since we used to take pictures of these places along with the family members.
This I am talking of the times before the uncertainty started prevailing in the whole valley and there was the violence and all those unfortunate things which happened afterward. Say, exactly a decade later when the Hindu community fled away from their motherland due to the massive killings happening to their relations and the safety was not at all there for the Kashmiri Hindus. Luckily my maternal-side, I mean my uncle and his family too had already shifted from Srinagar to Jammu in the 1980s and things were normal at that time.
Nature's beauty of Kashmir
This Srinagar visit in summers remained there till 1979-80 and afterwards-I went for the higher studies and immediately after that went to Ludhiana for the job. Although I used to be a regular visitor to Kashmir later from 1996 till 2019 and used to go for a few days almost every quarter in an official capacity, I must admit that every time I went there, I used to enjoy it a lot and even cherish every moment of those days as well. I don’t know, I have a special fascination for that beautiful place. Mainly maybe because that is my birthplace and more so I never spent a longer duration of time at a stretch there, just as my other relations spent their time earlier.
However, these memories would always remain there in my mind as sweet memories and just as the thought came to me today-I would relish them again and again, as, and when it comes to my remembrance.