How many times have we seen on screen, the gorgeous snow-clad slopes of Gulmarg, the well-manicured gardens in Srinagar and the artistically decorated shikaras dancing on the tranquil waters of Dal Jheel? The love affair of Indian film industry with the beautiful locales of Kashmir began decades ago and is still going strong, overcoming all obstacles and braving all odds. And why not? The region has so much to offer. Its different vistas, each one mesmerizing in its own way, are lovable, both on and off camera.
Srinagar, with the lovely Dal Jheel and the charming gardens dotting all the bends and curves, did a great job of soothing our senses, after the rugged, barren landscape of Ladakh. Travelling through the town, glimpses of either Dal Jheel or Himalayas - or at times, both – left us awestruck. The Hazratbal Masjid – a vision in white marble on the banks of blue Dal waters – left us enthralled. Every single garden was beautiful in its own way. Brightly coloured flowers, well-maintained lawns and refreshing fountains charmed their way into our hearts. A leisurely shikara ride in the Dal Jheel, taking in the beauty of Char Chinar or the distant Himalayas was a panacea for all our fatigue.
Gulmarg was quite different from Srinagar but equally beautiful, if not more. The Himalayan slopes, dotted by pine and fir trees, were a sight to behold. You find yourselves in a dreamland with wild flowers scattered over the lush green meadows and white clouds engulfing the mountains. As you gradually climb up in the Gondola, ranges and ranges of Himalayas unveil themselves in front of your eyes; the snow-clad peaks sometimes glistening in the sunlight and sometimes playing hide and seek with the clouds. As I stood there, taking in all the beauty around me – I wondered what it would be like, to be on these slopes, in snow. Well, I am still to find out!
We left for Jammu the next day, with mixed feelings. A very delightful fortnight of our lives was drawing to an end. We were leaner and tanned but beyond the physical appearance, these fifteen days had changed our outlook towards life. We had witnessed some extraordinary stories of courage and resilience. We had challenged ourselves, pushed our boundaries and faced the worst of our fears. We had learnt that in order to survive, one must work in tandem with nature not against it. But in spite of all this, home beckoned. Our lives, which we had left behind, now awaited our return. And we would embrace them happily, because those fifteen days had also taught us to be grateful for what we had and not to take anything for granted. Invigorated by all that we saw and experienced and with some friendships formed for life, we ended our journey on a high note.
On a similar high note, dear readers, I end this series. As I had expected earlier, writing about this journey has indeed proved to be a roller coaster ride. Talking about those lovely times and going through the pictures has been emotional but cathartic as well. While a new series with a new destination is in the pipeline, it is difficult to put a date on it at this point. But with a promise to come up with something very soon, I take your leave. Meanwhile, keep reading and travelling. They are the best healers of mind, body and soul. Julley, folks!! Until we meet again.