Starting the morning on the note of watching the hills go by and advance, oh my!
This simply seemed like homecoming. It felt like arriving in the lap of something just so comfortable that makes you happy and overwhelmed at the same time.
It was not only the landscape that had contrasting features at every mile but also the people. The sight of beautiful men and women seemed so soothing for some reason. The whole thought of being away from phone – (no network so no option anyway) was dreadful yet again!
On our way to Chatpal we took quite a few stops, one being Verinag. Verinag turned out to be the icebreaker for the trip!
We stopped at Mughal Gardens. I happened to meet a group of 4-5 ladies who were chilling by the stream. 2 minutes into the chat gathered more than 20 women at once. People were super welcoming and affectionate. The women had come to the stream to fill containers with chilled Jhelum water in order to break their fast (Iftaar). Talking and discussing about Ramzan, Mumbai, weather in Kashmir, their livelihood, menu for Itaar, I happened to spend a good 2 hours with them.
The commercialisation that I belong to has stopped being humane and affectionate, more or less. The warmth of having unknown people hug and talk so freely about their life is still possible, the thought itself makes me content and keeps me going.
We reached our destination quite late at night, but the journey was truly worth it.
A good night sleep, a natural chirping alarm, gushing stream; trip made.
After a long long tiring journey, the morning was way too beautiful to wake up to. A hearty breakfast and a quick huddle and we were ready to roll.
Trekking shoes on, energy bursting faster than shooting stars and the curiosity to see around made us get out and start XPLORING. The stream had my heart at the very first sight; clear water, gushy and yet so peaceful.
A tricky trek to the nearby village was totally worth it. A visit to the government school and meeting the kids showed the other side of the lifestyle. The kids were super curious and excited to know about the visitors. A combination of shy and curious to define it the best.
Walking around the village, soaking in the beauty and reminiscing it all; I spotted this young woman with a baby in her arms. For little did I know, the baby was just a week old. All she was a tiny soul comforting in the mother’s arms and fighting from a terrible cold. We didn’t know each other’s language, but we managed to converse really well. She couldn’t help but be tensed about her baby. I’ve always been scared of the thought to lift tiny babies. But babies do wade a way to your heart and force you to do the things you never imagined of doing. Within minutes, there I was, holding an innocent little soul in my arms and nurturing it like a mother.
We exchanged goodbyes and wished for well being as we departed our ways and prayed to meet each other someday again.
They lead a lifestyle so simple and close to nature. Making terms with whatever nature wishes for is the biggest achievement one can ever have. Be in the moment; keep going, wanderlust, wild escape and all the fancy phrases that we hear about surely have been inspired by such people.
I’m sure tomorrow brings a lot more to experience and explore.
Day 3 :
Slowly a family has been formed that eats, chills and sleeps together. Oh not to forget, also snores together. After a sound surrounded snoring night we all love to wake up fresh and happy to ace the day with all the energy and enthusiasm.
The last Friday of the holy month – Ramadan is all about offering the prayers dutifully and prepping up for the big day – Eid. We decided to see the pomp and show by having a shopping day out. Oh come on, who doesn’t love shopping? Even though if it’s just for the groceries.
For the first time we left our cosy little place Chatpal to explore the nearby villages and markets. So we happened to pass through a tiny village called Chitturgul. Oh boy, that was the Indian version of Winterfell (A kingdom in the TV series Game Of Thrones – that looks gloomy and scary) for me.
The scene was – We reach a place that has wooden houses that look dark and wet due to the rains. The car stops and it takes 2 minutes for the crowd to gather around the car and stare. A deadly stare to be specific..
Moving ahead, we reached a local market called Mattan. The village housed a lot of Muslims but also an equal number of Sikhs. A Gurudwara that had ongoing prayers and the afternoon Azaan at the Mosque. It was a wonderful moment in itself.
The day couldn’t get better when I spotted the post office. Writing a letter to my dear and near ones during my travels is a MUST. Being super content, I wrote down two letters asking them to get rid of materialistic lifestyle and to come experience the beauty of Kashmir.
We advanced to Anantnag. The sight of military men everywhere possible was scary. Imagine having to go to schools and having military men standing outside.
We passed the river Lidder, and met a father carrying his daughter. They originally belonged to Kashmir but have settled in Noida for the betterment of their daughter’s education.
The day ended with a royal sunset with varying shades of blue. And then, there were the crazy Jam Sessions that we had each night.
Festival mornings are the joyous ones, this was one of those. After the shopping, everyone put their Kashmiri swag on and got ready to attend Eid Dawaat.
We got lucky to be invited over to a Kashmiri household.
The welcome was just so heart warming. It melted my heart and got me all teary eyed. Bear hugs and wet kisses (from the ladies, uh oh) made our day. The day got even better with the huge family and the wide variety of food items. I’m sure the food items outnumbered the people present for lunch.
We overate. I guess that afternoon defines contentment so far. Post lunch we had an elaborate perfect family picture session. Dadiji ensure everyone had Kashmiri attire on.
Being a lover of sunrise and sunset, our visit to Martand temple (Sun Temple), later that day, was more or less like a cherry on the cake for Eid celebrations. I happened to meet this tiny genius who knew much more about the world than I do, I suppose. His thoughts about religion and beliefs outnumbered mine. His urge to escape Kashmir had a stronger reason than I could ever imagine.
In his words, “Yahan rehke kya karna hai, sab yahan mar jaate hai. Mazhab toh ek hai, logo ne alag kar diya hai.”
I’ve heard of kids being mature and talking real sense, but this one blew my mind.
There’s so much more to say, but next time.
Staying in the mountains ensures you wake up early without fail. Out from the bed, early morning walk on the green grass, mountains looking at you with loving eyes; such mornings should last forever.
A girls’ day out in the hills sounded fascinating to me and Astha. We headed to tiny villages to meet people and know their stories. Some seem to be super shy and others are so very welcoming. We got invited by young girls who expressed their stories. 20 year old girls, who’ve given up on studies, all they sit is at home and chill. It hurts to know that they never mind getting married at an early age and are content.
There are so many stories, happy and sad both. There are endless faces, inquisitive and welcoming.
One thing about Kashmiri people, they will go out of their way to any and every extent to make you feel homely and loved. It takes a lot to not expect a lot from the person and yet do so much beyond your capacity.
They say travel teaches you a great, I decided to learn a little each day and pen it down somewhere in a corner of my mind. Today was all about strive hard to create your own identity. You got to be giving and stop expecting to experience the true pleasure in whatever you do.
Waking up to realise that this is the probably the last time you’d do a particular thing. I woke up with a similar feeling. 21st July we were supposed to depart from Chatpal and leave behind the beautiful days spent at Chatpal getting to know each other so much better. The first destination was all about bond building.
Keeping all the emotional thoughts aside, the adventurous soul in me decided to finally take up a trek and gathered all the courage to do so. Krish, Gurveer and I decided to go for a small trek to reminiscence the cloudy weather. After a hearty happy stepping into the stream, Krish returned to the bungalow and Gurveer and I continued with the plan.
The constant breaks and catching some breath, giving up and rising again and again made the trek quite eventful. But as expected, I didn’t manage to reach the top. The fear overpowers, always. Nonetheless, the view was impeccable. Tiny hutments, water streams, fluffy cotton candy clouds, sheer goodness.
It being the last day in the lap of extreme beauty, we had a fun jam session. Jawahar Mir saab (caretaker of the house) loved sitting next to us whenever we jammed. His love for playing/learning new instruments was flawless. Old age could either ruin your life by making you super lazy or help you to get over-active. Jawahar saab certainly possessed the latter characteristics.
Echoing jam sessions, laughter riots, early morning peaceful moments by the stream, sharing dinner with counterparts, blissful life without electricity, squeezing and sleeping together; Chatpal nights have been memorable.