My white escapade to Jammu

Disclaimer:  My excitement expressed will be a tad overwhelming for a seasoned traveller! This three minute read is best approached with a naïve mind 🙂

If you have been a witness to the magnificence of Kashmir, then Jammu’s splendour will come as a tiny speck. But if you are home to one of the urban, concrete cities of India and gasp at the sight of stunning snowcapped Himalayas, gigantic conifer trees and mountains everywhere, then Jammu is beauty in galore. Yes, I was in India’s disputed border state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) for a trip that couldn’t get shorter. I warn you of making the most here. It’s a visual delight!

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Snowcapped Himalayas glistening white enroute Srinagar

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You know you are in the most combative states of India, J&K where the Army is omnipresent. They try not to miss a frame with you till the very end. Normally, on the streets, seeing uniformed men atop a few houses with guns and prying eyes would call for raised eyebrows, but here it ensures a condescending ring of safety, a way of life.

“Fulka khaane jaa raha hun, aap ke naam ka kha lunga, ye dus rupaye ka amrut kharid lo”. Talk about being witty in sales! As I paved my way into the city, I find such conversations around me come alive. The sheer grace with which they talk defines the essence of the people here. Uff, I was smitten! You are bound to revel in the purity of this language, Hindi and drift away from the uber English speaking urban youth that we have become. Infused with the Kashmiri dialect, this Hindi refuses to be associated with any of the UP-Bihari or Delhiwalla Hindi. No matter how polished your language is, the politeness with which they talk makes you feel embarrassed even to bargain with the vendor, lest you lower your speaking standards.  

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Watch carefully and one can discern beauty openly roaming the streets here;  at times in nature but most times in the gorgeous people. There was a rhyme in kindergarten that spoke daintily about ‘Chubby Cheeks, rosy lips and blue eyes’, and here I subconsciously & amusingly found the rhyme come alive. Dressed in traditional Dogri kurta and suthan, men and women demand a second glance. Oh yes, they age too with beauty intact 🙂 

Let me not forget the food! Beware, gorging on rajma chawal, chole bhatura, alu paranthas only, can make one forget their hard core non veggie side for a while! Alas, this is all the variety I had in food on this trip.

A trip to Jammu is incomplete without a visit (my first) to Vaishno Devi. This place truly has a power of its own. The sanctity & calm felt here can engulf even a non-believer of the Supreme Being. The moment after paying a visit to the shrine, sitting beside a cave at an altitude of 5,200 ft with a chill breeze blowing, the cold marble flooring beneath making your feet numb, the touch of water sending a chill within you; your mind transgresses to a different level of thought. The background fades into animation and you can’t escape the peace that envelops you. Is it the winter month doing the trick or sheer power of the shrine? Another 2 km up and the view of Bhairon Nath temple at an altitude of 6619 ft is mesmerizing. It’s heavenly as a blanket of clouds appears below you.  It’s celestial  as if nothing else can look more hypnotizing! Advices, if you are hale and hearty walk the 16 km up and back the visit.

 

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View from Bhairon Nath temple at an altitude of 6619 ft

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Vaishno devi resides in a Holy cave in the folds of the three-peaked mountain named Trikuta

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Feeling gleeful amongst these colourful mules

Kashmir & Jammu – never the same thing. Oh yes, comes from my own experience of tagging everyone coming from this state as, “You belong to Kashmir?” “No, I am from Jammu”.  “Isn’t that the same thing? And a politely stern reply as no! For as my Uncle, a retired Army officer, recollects his Jammu postings with gleaming eyes, “The moment you cross over the Jawahar tunnel in the Pir Panjal Range, the entire map changes- the religion, the soil, the climate, the people, and the mood”. You enter the valley of Kashmir and this is where paradise resides. This is where beauty and bloodshed are spoken of in the same breath.

Till another time I chance upon visit Kashmir, they say the better half of J&K, I satiate myself with the endless snowcapped Himalayas I see at Srinagar, white and surreal.

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Remembering Gandhi- or have we forgotten him?

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“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi

It is the time of the year again when we look back at our emphatic freedom struggle over British rule and celebrate the birth of the great icon, Mahatma Gandhi who led us through this remarkable victory.  Born on 2nd October, 1869 this day is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti in India and also observed by the United Nations as the International Day of non-violence.

Undeniably, words fall short to admire the determination, principles and ideologies of Gandhi that led India to independence and also inspired a nation brimming with potential leaders. Born in Porbandar, Gujarat to a middle class upbringing, he went on to study law at London’s University College. He lived his life as a regular youngster reflecting no keen interest to contribute in the freedom struggle. However it was in South Africa while practicing law did he face racial discrimination that awakened him to social injustice and turned the events in his life. Gandhi evoked a number of movements for civil rights that weakened the British rule and finally stirred them out of India.

For the children today, Gandhi may just be another freedom fighter they have to learn about in their history books. But have we really forgotten him? Look closely around you and may find his presence in all matters around us. Our country is standing at the threshold of communal violence fuelled by party politics. The country was shocked during the recent rape cases but people yet chose to silently protest against it following his path of non-violence. Corruption is ripping the country economically but our civil mass disobedience movement staged by us during the Anna Hazare uprising demanded answers from the government for it reinforcing yet again his beliefs.

Besides adorning the walls of the offices he definitely has left his footprints behind. People may rebuff his philosophies, but to fight the rising global issues his ideologies will continue to influence society. Gandhi dreamt of a progressive India, so let us all unite and commit ourselves in harmony to be the change we want to see in the world. He truly is a great leader and after all on a lighter note else who is privileged enough to have dry day declared in their remembrance.

Bande mein tha dum Vande mataram!

(Note- This article was published in the Times of India supplement Times Neighbourhood, Viman Nagar Pune, Dated 04th Oct 2013 – excerpts from it)