Monday, September 17, 2012

Valleys And Waterways Of Kashmir



I had very little time to explore this fascinating land of towering mountains, green, shaded vales and innumerable water forms (rivers, streams, lakes, glaciers).  I spent a couple of days in the Srinagar and Anantnag districts of Kashmir and my focus was largely on meeting people I knew.

After attending various functions and meeting family friends, we found ourselves on the road that connects Srinagar to Anantnag.  It is crowded and dusty in part but also passes through some very scenic stretches.  We crossed fields green with unharvested rice, the Lidder river (and its tributaries) lined by willow, poplar and chinar trees, fields where saffron grows, orchards of apple, pear and apricot.  The road weaved gently round the undulating terrain as we moved from mountain to mountain.  The skies were cloudy, threatening rain when we set out, but the clouds gradually lifted and reluctantly allowed the sun to shine through.  As soon as the sun broke through, we got a glimpse of layers and layers of towering, ancient mountains - some pine covered and some stark and bare, whose presence we were earlier unaware of.  We were suddenly surrounded by shades of green, brown and grey.  This is the magic of the mountains - they can disappear and appear at will (or when the weather permits it)!






Srinagar is crowded and dusty and one tends to forget that it is one of the most picturesque capital cities of the country.  Until one moves past the construction to see water and mountains stretching out endlessly.  The Jhelum river flows silently through the city and enters the gigantic Dal Lake.  Mountains rise in the distance.  In the background, hidden away in a corner, is the tiny, tranquil Nagin Lake. The lake is relatively quiet; shikaras (small local boats) glide along its surface, transporting flowers, vegetables or the occasional visitor!  A row of houseboats stand placidly in the distance, awaiting tourists.  We ventured on this lake one evening during sunset, when the colours were a rich orange-gold that turned to a pale peachy-pink.  Then night fell and the lights from the houseboats and the city came on like little glowing torches.






The next morning, I stood and stared at the lake for a long time - birds hopped from leaf to leaf, the lotus plants were fresh and turned towards the sun (the flowers had all fallen off during the heavy rains of the previous days), the water gleamed and mumbled to itself - secrets of all that it had witnessed perhaps.  I walked away, at peace with the world.


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