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Let’s Talk About Kashmir, Not Conflict | Kashmir Observer

Let’s Talk About Kashmir, Not Conflict

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I am in Kashmir. The beautiful country plagued by violence. Yes, it is a mini warzone. But this is not about conflict. Or war. This is about the trivial, inconsequential problems that I, as a big city girl, face in Srinagar, the capital city of Kashmir, presented to you in the most exaggerated form possible. Go on…or don’t.

1. The Dal Lake Folly

My first few days in Kashmir were more touristy than I had imagined. I went to the Mughal Gardens to stare at the big, colourful flowers that one could only dream of seeing back in Delhi. I went to the Sunday market near Lal Chowk to buy myself some pherans, tried haggling the prices a bit, failed, and yet bought them.

Walking alongside the Dal Lake, now that was something exceptional. For somebody from Delhi to actually see people fishing as a hobby over the weekend instead of watching Netflix, being at home to avoid the sun was no less than a sacred sight. But there was a problem. While taking THE walk of my life, my eyes oscillated constantly between the Dal and the pathway I was walking on. One second here, the other there. This is not because the pathway is distractingly beautiful, but because if I let myself get lost in the beauty of the Dal… I would fall on my face.

The way that it is made, those anti-tourist tiles with holes in it just big enough to swallow the heels of my sandals, is simply evil.

2. Shikaras

How expensive shikara rides are for tourists is another thing. My main concern was firstly to climb on the shikara without moving it too much on to one side. And then to sit still as a starfish as it moves, without letting it tilt on one side (again) so as to not die a Titanic style death. I once asked a shikara waala what would happen if I fell in the water. “Somebody or the other will come recue you, madam.” He said somebody or the other. What if there’s nobody around? I don’t know swimming. So it is true- my fears are not unfounded.

Good thing, they told me milliseconds before crashing into another shikara that shikara accidents are not fatal. Phew!

3. Kashmiri

Kashmiri: Not the people, the language.

Imagine a situation: Your best friend is a Kashmiri whom you are meeting after years. You and they are walking alongside the Dal talking about the beautiful time you’ve spent together in college. You spot a college time enemy of you both, also a Kashmiri walking towards you, also enjoying a stroll beside the glorious Dal. You and your best friend look at each other and have a silent agreement to say a quick hello and leave. The moment arrives, the enemy is getting closer, you make eye contact with them, a smirk is on its way. You say hello. Your friend says something like a Kashmiri hello.

And then you end up waiting for the next fifteen minutes, on one lonely side of the pathway for your best friend and their supposed enemy to finish talking in Kashmiri pretending to not care that you don’t understand a thing of what they’re talking about.

There. That’s how it feels to be among people who speak Kashmiri. Harmless and innocent, but evil.

4. Everything I buy could have been cheaper

The other day, I decided to visit the Gulshan Bookstore which is located in the Dal Lake. It’s fascinating- you have to take a shikara to reach the bookstore cum café and cross the Nehru Park, too, for which they charge you a fee.

I had a good time there, reading Jane Austen and sipping on coffee while looking at the Dal on the sides from the open air café. The good feeling continued…until later in the evening when it became something of a point of discussion among my friends as they debated whether or not I should have taken a local along with me so that they could save me from getting cheated (“Tumhe lutne se bachane ke liye!”) by the Shikara fare and the Nehru Park fee. According to them, I am naïve, just a breath away from being dumb to go to a place like that by myself and not let them bargain the prices for me. It’s overprotective and cute, but as the list has to go on- also evil.

But still, come to Kashmir.

See for yourself the glorious city of Srinagar in all its glory. 


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