#KashmirDiaries: Doodhpathri – Where water turns into milk

In our quest to be far away from the maddening crowd, we visited some truly stunning, less touristy places in Kashmir. The one that really stood out for me is Doodhpathri, which is still being developed and promoted by the Jammu and Kashmir tourist board. Located in the Budgam district, it is a roughly 3 hour drive from Srinagar. And what a drive it is! There are some breath-taking valley views and lots of cute little villages along the way. In fact, the entire route is dotted with rivers and streams and small, tinkling waterfalls.

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Winding roads, Doodhpathri, Kashmir

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#KashmirDiaries: Naranag – Where nature and history meet

Sometimes things happen by chance, and they turn out to be absolutely wonderful – like our day trip to Naranag. We had originally set out for Sonamarg, but encountered a major jam on the way. So our driver suggested we turn back and go to Naranag instead. We had passed the turn-off a while back and had been wondering whether we would have enough time to visit it on this trip. Turns out, we did!

Shepard’s huts built into the hills, Naranag, Kashmir

The road to Naranag is steep, winding and narrow. Lined by small villages on one side and gorgeous valley views on the other, the drive itself is beautiful.Continue reading

#KashmirDiaries: Pahalgam – Of fairy tale gardens and the majestic Lidder

Kashmir is reputed to be heart-stoppingly beautiful.
It’s called India’s Switzerland.
Ghalib famously said if there’s Paradise on earth, it’s Kashmir.

Honestly, after seeing Sringar, I was rather cross with all these descriptions.

Sure the Dal Lake is beautiful and the Mughal gardens are a piece of living history, but it’s a busy, bustling city like any other. Comparing this to Paradise, really?!
{Yes, I realize I equated the city of Srinagar with the whole state of Kashmir, but bear with me. I am only human, after all! I also blame some of the husband’s grumpiness rubbing off on me. Moving on!}

Then we went to Pahalgam. And what can I say? If there is Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.

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#KashmirDiaries: Romancing the Dal

When you think of Srinagar, you think of the Dal Lake.

And I think of Shashi Kapoor romancing Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir ki Kali. {Yes, yes, complete cliché, but it is what it is.} So it should be no surprise that a shikara ride was right up there on my have-to-do list. I was so eager to experience the romance of the shikara that I dragged the husband to the Dal almost as soon as we had checked in to our hotel.

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Sailing into the sunset

I had heard that the Dal Lake is dotted with shikaras selling everything from trinkets to chips and Coke, and that they start hounding you almost the minute you get into a boat. That was not what I wanted at all, and I was prepared to tell the boatman that in no uncertain terms. But when we reached the lake, I didn’t see any other shikaras floating around – how lucky was that?Continue reading

#KashmirDiaries: The journey begins!

I’ve always wanted to visit Kashmir.

A typical Kashmiri house with sloping roofs

A typical Kashmiri house with its sloping roof

Growing up, I heard stories about Kahsmir’s legendary beauty from my mother and maasi, who had been there as children. I saw it pictured on the silver screen, as Bollywood stars played out their romances in shikaras on the Dal Lake and in the meadows and valleys of Kashmir.

Then militancy struck the valley in the 1990s and continued seemingly without end, and I wondered if I would ever be able to visit Kashmir. But after over a decade of strife, things have normalized somewhat and tourism has opened up once again. Though incidents do happen in the valley occasionally, they have never, to my knowledge, targeted tourists.Continue reading

Book Review: Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita

Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim-majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azadi’ from India. The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told through the prism of the brutality of the Indian state, and the pro-independence demands of separatists. But there is another part of the story that has remained unrecorded and buried. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is the unspoken chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which it was purged of the Kashmiri Pandit community in a violent ethnic cleansing backed by Islamist militants. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed, and about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss.

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