When I left for my college trip to Jammu and Kashmir, I had within me. a pleasant anxiety of the days to come. Kashmir is beautiful, this I knew from others who had visited the place. But, whether the beauty would absorb and overwhelm me and make a cumulative difference to my thought, was the question.
I flatter myself as being someone of good organizational habits and a little more than slight literary bent of mind. And so, on my trip, I jotted down observations and made a couple of sketches. Their true worth, I realized only after getting back. I am going to treasure these diary entries.
I found Gulmarg and Pahalgaam most beautiful, what with the lovely snowfall, endless meadows and stunning valleys. The pure and clean river streams with colourful smooth stones underneath, with the slow repetitive sound of running water, was incredibly soothing. Dal lake, our nightly stay in the houseboat, and the shikara ride which showed to us the vast expanse of the lake was calming and peaceful.
I believe we went there at the right time, with autumn in progress. The gently falling leaves as they traced their path along the helpful breeze, could literally slow down time for me. I could gaze at the view for hours.
We were, however, a group of almost 60 people, and with such a large group, do come some annoyances. Disliked personality traits, delays, and frustrating change of plans are a few of them.
Because of the terrain of the area, most of the travel happened by bus and jeep, and most of the times, for hours at a stretch. People did fall sick out of dizziness or motion sickness, but nothing lastingly harmful or damaging happened. An added discomfort to the women was the absence of proper bathroom facilities on the way, but since that is the scenario all over India, Kashmir can’t be expected to be an exception.
All the above apart, the sight seeing was definitely worth the trouble we had to go through and the mismanagement we had to face.
As a psychology student, I incurred some interesting insights and observations about the locals. I felt bad that they deceive tourists in money matters, charging them double or more, but, it might be their only source of income, especially for those of low socio-economic status.
I also observed that the locals got angry very quickly, and did not often make an attempt to control or hide it. I would think its biological, but a friend informed me, that the locals are provided basic necessities by the government, and therefore, there is no motivation to inculcate hospitality towards tourists. This could be the reason why I did not see any malnourished poor people, which are a regular sighting in Mumbai.
Though, the locals are not to be entirely blamed for their display of stronger emotions. By experience, I do admit that tourists often act in irritating and offensive ways, as cultural transcendence doesn’t come easily to all.
I learnt from my trip that having something that drives you, is as important as taking time off and joyfully exploring the world around. That, stability is a requisite, just like change is. Only then, can life be truly and satisfactorily enjoyed.
In these ten days, I have seen bronze valleys full of characteristic Chinar trees, the prettiest of faces that are so without any conscious effort at beauty, tasted kahwa, tuj and other amazingly tasty local food, and above all, carry within me, the warmth and glow of having seem one of the most beautiful places on the planet.