BY SUMEDHA MANHAS
Breaking the crisp silence, tucked feet under the Razai, covering my hands in the pockets of my father’s Pheran, I woke up to a scene of naked mountains with tips covered in snow, flawlessly white. And when the sun melted its hues into the Dal, that’s when I realised- the sun sets, even in paradise.
Kashmir has been a land of conflicts and history, both woven beautifully into the fibre of pashmina Kashmiris wear. Kashmir, the muse of Agha Shahid Ali wakes up to the morning Azaan and sleeps, comfortably tucked after soaking hands in the Kangri’s warmth. When I walked the streets of Kashmir, I learned a new thing about it her everyday - whether it was how warmly its people spoke or how peaceful a short nap on a sun soaked shikara could get.
An old woman in search for the finest lotus amongst many scattered in the dal asked me about my home, I told her I belonged to a place different, beautiful, but not so much as Kashmir, to which she told me “ashiyana toh khubsoorat sabhi ka hai” just how to a bird, her nest is the most beautiful.
The zaafran in the warm kehwa poured in small tea cups through a hand crafted samawear, the taste of bay leaf, fennel, cloves, cinnamon in my food, the scenery from every window in any house, Kashmir shrinks its beauty into the most subtle things it offers.
I was under its spell. I could smell its air. I could stay in silence and not feel alone. And perhaps it was its beauty which hid the tragedy and it was it’s land’s peace that silenced the screams.
The most haunting yet stunning part about Kashmir was - its story. In every household it was told most ardently. Kashmiris didn’t only take pride in their land but also welcomed any lost soul to refuge in its serenity.
On the naked shores of Jhelum, amongst the striking tulip gardens, its scenic splendour, its local handicrafts with the most intricate designs, there was art everywhere your eyes could wander; it hid a poem, in the tiniest of its corners. Kashmir needed to be seen how it was supposed to - not as a land of conflict- but as home of the people who made Lavasa before dawn, a home to Sufi that dwelled people in its mysticism, people who wove the most breathtaking ˆ, people who lived in cozy homes embellished with walnut wood, people who spoke the language of ‘love’, people who accept strangers on their land like family only to receive just a little love from the rest of us. And whatever anyone must have heard, her truth remains latent, waiting to be unearthed.
So I came back to my ashiyana after a week, but I brought back with me, Kashmir, in a Chinar losing its burnt yellow to brown, all dried between the pages of my diary, witness to my unfinished poem about her.
And with the flavour of Chaman now becoming nostalgic for me, wish to be a wanderer again, in the same land which felt like home.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.