Soon after returning from my year long trip around the world, my parents suggested that we do a short family trip to Kashmir. I have visited Kashmir many times but this was to be my first family trip to Kashmir.
As a solo woman traveler, I have always witnessed the generosity and kindness of people. I can’t recall how many cups of tea, free food and candid conversations I have had with strangers, the people I happened to met while roaming around. Such experiences I have hardly experienced when traveling with someone, so for last couple of years, I have only traveled solo.
But because I love Kashmir too much, I agreed for what was to be my first family/ group vacation in years.
And quite expectedly, Kashmir did not disappoint. If you happen to have a conversation with Kashmiris, you would surely get overwhelmed by the simplicity, love and hospitality of its people. Years of conflicts, struggles and torture might have changed the way how people outside of Kashmir perceive its inhabitants, but it has not changed KASHMIRI people.
For a week, we traveled to some touristy and not so touristy places in Kashmir. From places we stayed in, to people we happened to meet – shopkeepers, taxi drivers, shepherds, everybody made us feel at home. We found them genuine in their conversations and very positive as a community.
In fact, we spent two days staying up in the hills with the Gujjars – a tribal community of Kashmir. Not rich in materials, they opened their homes and hearts to us and offered us a peak in their lives.
It is quite natural that most people regard the circumstances of others as better and many people I have met, especially in conflict-ridden areas, have expressed the feeling that if they got a chance they would like to swap their situations with me.
However, quite ironically, people of the valley feel the other way. Nobody here in Kashmir wants to swipe their life with us. They relish their clean air and postcard-worthy living spaces more than the comfort and convenience of city life. Probably, that is the reason why Kashmir is called Paradise on earth. Everyone wants to stay here forever.