“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”
These lines recited by Emperor Jahangir on his first sighting of Kashmir truly capture its essence. Loosely translated it means, if there is paradise on earth anywhere, then it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.
The best thing I have done so far in my life is to move to Kashmir to pursue my writing in peace. I have rented out this modest 2 bedroom cottage, perched up on the hillside above Nishat bagh in Srinagar. It affords me a splendid view of the Dal Lake, something I don’t tire of looking at every day.
Did you know there is a floating Post office on the Dal lake? Its one of a kind in the world.
Like every other Kashmiri house, this one too has a covered attic on the topmost floor. It’s pretty handy in the long winter months for drying clothes, sunning stuff and generally storing things. I got lucky as the owner has partially built a small room towards the front of the house in the attic while the rest of it is left like an open verandah with windows all around.
This little nook I have appropriated as my writing space as it’s the perfect spot to gaze at the lake while I work. It’s also the perfect excuse to day dream too; something I have been scolding myself for a lot. I blame it all on these rambunctious birds that keep popping up on the trees surrounding the house. They keep up an incessant chatter, almost chiding me for being cooped up inside when it’s so glorious outside.
A paradise unlike any other
I echo the sentiment of many others that there is something truly uniquely alluring in the air of Kashmir. Its sweet waters beguile not just the palate but all the senses into a serenity that is not experienced anywhere else. I think if one sneezes here, a flower pops up soon enough to commemorate the spot. That’s how fertile the earth is here which makes everything grow to lush proportions.
My move to the valley has been prompted by my desire to be left alone in peace to be able to write. I am on a self pilgrimage of sorts to iron out all the kinks and chinks in my armor. Actually I seem to have displaced my armor, exposing my vulnerability for the world to mock and jeer at.
Some of them ask me that am I not scared to be in the valley? Isnt it dangerous there? I just smile and tell them what better place to die than in paradise 😉
Spring merges into summer
Come March, the narcissus pop their elegant heads everywhere even as the sweet clover and wild daisies start to dot the verdant green pastures. Wild flowers burst forth around streams and rivulets which too have begun to swell up with the melting snows. I bring back these gorgeous sprays from my walks and then set them out in jam jars all around the house. It’s also the time when fruit trees put forth the delicate blossoms that shed their petals at the whiff of a breeze. One can see the plum, apple, cherry and peach trees vying for first place.
April brings the tulips into a heady riot of colors. You cannot resist their lure and that’s evident in the tourists flocking to see the annual show at the Tulip gardens. Of course, not to be missed are the Mughal gardens that too show off their floral bounties in abundance.
Everywhere as the snow melts, the earth starts to show off her colors by springing forth brilliant blooms – Calendula, Gerbera, Floccus, Lillium, Dahlia, Hydrangea, golden poppies and many many more . This fashion show continues till late July when the Lavender bushes begin to paint the landscape in a medley of purple hues. It’s a premium flower crop as the flowers are distilled for their oil which is a precious commodity.
There are plenty of shops selling these naturally sourced essential oils in Srinagar – check out this post to know more
Intrigued? Pin it for later!
As autumn rolls in with September, the gracious green canopies of the Chinars start a color revolution of their own. Over the next two months, the leaves turn from yellow to amber to a rust red, before shedding from the tree. One can see children running riot in the mounds of fallen leaves which find great favor from the local and tourist cameras. I have pressed several of these leaves in some of my books and even framed a couple of them in glass and presented to friends.
Did you know that the shedding of chinar leaves has a term in local language? It’s called Buen! People burn the dry leaves to make charcoal (Punn Tsenei) out of it which is used to burn in the Kangris (cane baskets with a terracotta pot that burns coal) to keep the cold at bay. In winters it’s a common sight to see every Kashmiri cradling one of these under their Phiran or sitting hunched up over it.
Autumn is also the time when the saffron crocus starts putting in an appearance. Gorgeous purple flowers, these are treasured for the spice that they are infamous for. Its also the much preferred ingredient to make the famous Kashmiri drink called Kehwa. Its at the core to Kashmiri hospitality and a visit to anyone’s house in incomplete without it.
Kehwa is brewed in metal containers called Samovars which are heated urns and use charcoal, pine cones, etc as fuel. The metal work is highly ornamented on most and these are a thing of beauty to behold. Its a common sight to spot people sitting in the Mughal gardens with one or more, serving Kehwa to the tourists and local alike.
You might enjoy this post on Chai Jai cafe in Srinagar that I did a while back
The first sprinkle of snow as the weather turns dry and cold towards November signals the onset of winters. This is the period I love the best as I have an inborn affinity to the cold and love the snowy months. Of course electricity plays truant all winters and heating becomes a huge issue–not romantic at all.
The trees stand bare all around, completely shorn of its green cover which makes it prefect for the snow to drape itself all over their branches. It looks like Mother nature has decorated the trees with an icy lace. You have to see the trees after a snowfall to understand what the fuss is all about.
You can check out this guestpost that I did on Seema Misra’s blog featuring these lacy icy branches
Yup I have been here a year to see all four seasons in their wholesome glories and can’t pick a favorite one yet. Despite all the brouhaha over the disturbed state of affairs in the valley, I have actually found a home in this paradise. Now to find my peace of mind and the writing mojo 🙂
Dont even get me started on the Kashmiri food for then this post will become never ending. That reminds me, must check with Sakina whats for lunch today!!!
Signing off now as I really do need to get started on my writing today.
I hope my musings about Kashmir didnt bore you – I am truly in awe and love with this paradise and pray for things to be normal here again. Have you visited Kashmir – what are your thoughts about this valley?
In continuation from the previous post in this series – Outside my Window