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!
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.
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.
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.