Badam Vaer: Almonds and Aura 

By Riyaz Kazmi 

THE other day I cannot believe that after 14 years I am finally back and trying to settle down at my native place. It was an amazing experience to see the better and bitter side of life. It provided me an opportunity to know the world far and beyond. I cherished every moment with my colleagues and friends who belonged to different countries. There is everything which one can wish for but I never felt I belong to that place. Something was missing. I felt deep emptiness and dissatisfaction all those years. Whether one is settled in Delhi or Dubai, Switzerland or Saudi, UK or USA or any other part of the world, deep down our hearts we always wish to come back and stay among our people. No matter wherever we are, on purpose, to study, to work or to establish our business we will always miss ‘Naseeme Sabah’ (Morning breeze) of our valley.

When we are determined, we will definitely find a way but remember, it’s not going to be an easy task to accept new ways of life. I was mentally prepared for the tough life ahead. And of course, there are a lot of things on which one has to compromise. Once we embark on a new journey, very often we compare and think about our fabulous past. Either one should never leave his native place or if he has done so he shouldn’t come back to a place where he can’t avail luxuries of life. We should be very much clear about our goals otherwise our impulsive choices are going to hurt and haunt us till the end.

After my return to my homeland, the journey was also full of obstacles but I never gave up on my self belief. My definition for success is ‘Simple’ be at peace with whatever Allah (SWT) has blessed me. I’m trying to find positives in every situation and remain anchored to enjoy present moments. Life goes on but there are certain things which one cannot forget and stop doing. After spending so many years outside the valley, few things have become inevitable for me. After a hectic day, I used to attend free yoga classes at the Sharjah chorniche or Al Nahda Park Dubai, sometimes swim at Jumeirah or enroll for an intense boot camp at Mamzar Beach. These life changing (Experiences) events are arranged by the people who are experts in Yoga/Pilates, Meditation and Aerobics. I cherished the company of strangers. The vibrant transformation helped me to rediscover my inner peace.

When I was back, for a few months, I was unable to set a routine to keep myself fit and busy. I couldn’t reach the best version of myself. I rather found it difficult to adjust with people and places. It was more like slipping into oblivion but somehow I could manage to hold up against all odds. More than anything else my health was affected .I was struggling to get out of boredom and find an outlet to keep myself focused and get going with the flow. I tried very hard to get out of testing times but responsibilities kept me stuck.

On one pleasant morning, my friend took me to BadamVaere for a brisk walk. I was surprised to see its captivating beauty. All these years a lot of things have changed. I was happy to see so many activities going around. The atmosphere was absolutely electrifying. I couldn’t believe it’s the same’ Bagh e Waris Khan’ which once used to be a forest and one was scared to roam around. Whenever I visited this haunting place during my Childhood days I used to be very curious to lean forward on my knees to peep into the Waris Khan Chah (well).We were told that the well was built to put and punish the prisoners. Little did many of us know the reason for the construction of the well might be to reserve the water for the supply to Hari Parbat port atop the Kohi Maran Hills. As a child it was sort of an adventure and one of the motives behind the visit was to pluck almonds.

This mesmerizing place of around 288 canals is actually Bagh e waris Khan Which has been rechristened as ‘BadamVaer’.Many decades ago it was spread over vast area starting from Sangeen Darwaz including many present day densely populated localities like Tibetan colony, Kallaye under, Hakka Bazar, other adjoining places falling within Faseel e Akbari (the stone wall) which girdled the city and Bagh e waris Khan is the remnant of its former glory. In 1876 Dogra Monarch Ranbir Singh ordered almond plantation. During olden days, fairs and festivals were held and celebrated near present day BSNL Office. People thronged this place to enjoy its immense beauty. Musicians entertained them by folk songs. Street vendors hawked toys and sweets. Parents haggled over the price for children Rides.Unfortunately, public greed (urbanization) and political unrest changed everything. The erstwhile social and cultural sets up were lost in turmoil.

Till 2007, Bagh-e -Waris-Khan was just a piece of land which didn’t have much to offer. And those at the helm of affairs were not efficient and sincere enough to explore its full potential. There is a history in every direction.Its picturesque surroundings and historical significance of other prominent places in the area like Hari Parbat Fort, Makhdoom Sahab (R. A) Shrine, and Parvati Temple on the Kohi Maran Hills,Khawaja Bahawodin Gunj Baksh Shrine,Chatti Padshahi Gurduwara on its South and Nigeen Lake on its eastern side were not taken into account by the state Govt to restore what was left behind but finally JK Bank in 2007 stepped in under its CSR agenda and took major initiative to recreate and revamp it into the most happy and happening place. It has become a must visit place for everyone. The way it has been developed, maintained and managed is highly appreciable. Honestly speaking, they have done sheer justice to this place.

It is noteworthy to put on record the way captain of the ship Mr.Jehangir Mustafa (JK Bank Executive Manager) works and manages the different and difficult day to day operations of the garden. He is proficiently supervising a dedicated workforce of 70 employees including, gardeners, office staff, sweepers and security guards. Here every person has delivered over and above the expectations of the public. There is a team of around 35 gardeners who provide proper technical care to prepare seeds, transplant them in beds and make judicious use of chemical fertilizers/pesticides for profuse flowering. The credit goes to Mr. Jehangir for his commitment and command.

Since time immemorial, BadamVaere is famous for “Almond Bloom” (Badam Fulli).The blossom is palpable once the pleasant spring weather arrives in mid march. Meanwhile on 21st March, there is the auspicious occasion of ‘’Nourouz“. With its onset, a myriad of visitors celebrate the Festival and enjoy the advent of spring. Everything looks so mesmerizing. Only “Divine Hands “can create such flowering miracles. The array of colors accompanied by a sweet aroma of flowers not only welcomes spring but also the visitors. It casts a magical spell upon them. They are refreshed by the cool breeze of “Naseeme Sabah “which is the fusion between Mountain and Lake Breeze laying on blend of lovely fragrance of flowers. It doesn’t only sway the flowers but also refreshes their souls. One wonders at the creations of God when we take a look at the flowering beds of Pansy(Panzeen),Tulips(Gule Lala),Calendula(Hamesh Bahar),Antirrhinum,Dianthus caryophyllus(carnation).In March/April this place truly becomes “Photographer’s Paradise”. All these little wonders give us a reason to celebrate the new season of life. Locals also make it memorable by their hospitality and offer free ‘Kahwa and Bakirkhani’ to the visitors. Every month, this place has something to offer. In the First week of May, peach flowering is in bloom. These days (Oct-Nov) Salvia splendens (Flowering sage) is adding new colors to its abounding beauty.

From June to Aug, Cultural academy organizes “Music concert” shows on Sundays under the banner “Jashene Amadi Bahar”.The valley’s renowned singers sing on the Amphitheater and amuse the audience by  their spectacular performances. Food, Fruit, Beverage Kiosks and other stalls are also arranged for the public. There is also a separate playing zone for the children as well. Foreign and domestic tourists that have an eye for heritage and history fall short of words to praise its beauty.

The grandeur of Badam Vaer is evident right from the main magnificent gate which is around 25 Feet tall, built in limestone (Chunna Surok) and designed on the ‘ pointed Arch pattern’ which is the true reflection of the elegant Mughal Architecture. Another gate of the same symmetry is built in line on its east at the distance of around 100 Mts or 330-350 footsteps. In its backdrop Zabarwan Hills just look awesome. The pavement is built in beautifully designed tiles. The jogger’s path is spread over 1.15 Kms or approximately 1100 footsteps. The gentle elevation of the path on its North side provides the gradual friction which is ideal for the ‘High intensity walk and workout’. On these slopes, there is a feeling as if we are running on a treadmill. Rope Skipping is also done at distinct spots. At every nook and corner, we will find people engaged in different healthy pursuits. On a lighter note, it’s amusing to see or hear a bunch of people doing’ Loud Laughter therapy’. They look so hale and hearty.

There is free parking for the joggers and in addition to that wheelchairs are also kept for the needy people for taking them around. The moment we enter and look around, everything catches our attention. There is a story behind every structure. They have been built based on proper designing and concept. One gets a nostalgic feel when we look at the small structures having “Chayeh Paash” (Mud & Hay Roofs) resembling those village houses which we can rarely find now.

At the center of the garden, Almond shaped ‘Sculpture Fountain’ of’ Allah’ in Arabic calligraphy is Inscribed by the renowned artist of the valley Mr. Masood Hussain.Its base is also carved out in Almond shape so as to correlate it with the name and nature of the place. It’s the masterpiece and main attraction for visitors. Whenever I am here, it gives me spiritual comfort and emotionally reconnects me with my Lord and with the verses of Holy Quran.
He is Allah, the one and only.
Allah is He, on whom all depend.

One cannot stop praising all those master craftsmen who toiled to build the Deodar shelter sheds (Baladars) with Khatamband ceilings. The whole structure is based and designed on Mughal pattern. Usually inside there, families sit, serve and sip tea together.

Recently, I was pleased to see Oral historian and heritage Researcher Mr. Syed Illyas Rizvi conducting creative writing, poetry (Rumi, Sheikh Ul Alam, Gani Kashmiri, and Lal Ded) and photography workshops for the youngsters. It is highly commendable to see him creating such a Youth Discourse Platform Where they open up and don’t miss any session and manage to come from different parts of the Srinager,even in these tough times.Mr.Rizvi is leaving no stone unturned to guide and nurture intellectual inclinations. Hats off to his commitment, concern and courage.

Waris Khan Chah (Well) has been properly and perfectly covered with welded mesh. Its ceiling is finely done with the paper-machie plates. Inside and around it, young boys sit and sing melodious sad songs. They take refuge there to unburden their souls and suffer (Tym Tcha Tatan Gum Daffayi Karan).

I was surprised to see 70 year old gentleman Mr. Afzal Sb doing aerobics with such pride and perfection. He does everything in more imaginable form. He leads an enthusiastic group of almost 50 people. I could easily connect with each member of the group. In a short span of time, I could catch up pace with them. I am lucky to be a part of their different activities which gave me a chance to explore places which I had never heard of before .Sometimes we plan a trip to tourist destinations where we hike and enjoy delicious Wazwan after rigorous adventure. I am happy to rediscover myself.

We may calm and console ourselves for the time being but that cannot heal our wounds. Culture and customs will never die but that cannot alone fulfill our aspirations. Palace or (This) Park is of no value unless we don’t find our space, solitude and spiritual well being.

The Author is From Gasiyar, Hawal and can be reached at  [email protected]

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