It is just startling how the sculptures that water, sky and rocks form, are all at their best in Kashmir. Rightly so, the cliche reigns:
“Agar firdous Bar ru ye zamee ast.
Hami ast o hami ast o hami ast.”
If Paradise exists on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.
However, Kashmir being beautiful is the only fact that non-Kashmiris have gotten correct. Many people have a lot of misconceptions about Kashmir and Kashmiri people. Here are a few of the myths that need to be debunked:
Winter is Going
No, Kashmir is not always cold. Broadly speaking, Kashmir has four seasons. Spring in April is the Aslan to our Narnia winters. The colours are so mesmerising that through our eyes they seem to enrich and refresh the very spirit of our being. But spring bids an adieu soon.
Not only do we have summers, we have severe summers. The sun is lethal. However, Kashmir manages to look its best around this time. If snow isn’t your only lure, plan a trip around the time of spring and summer.
Autumn is sheer poetry on the fading green. The exclusive Chinar leaves burn in red and brown, leaving one wondering about the chiseled experiences of our lives.
Kashmir is not a Slope, it’s a Valley
Time and again people have placed Kashmiri houses on the tangents of an equilateral triangle. Those angles would make the city fall. It’s true, Kashmir has a lot of mountains, but Kashmir is a valley amidst the mountains. A valley is very similar to a cup. It is a long depression surrounded by hills or mountains. In case of Kashmir, the mountains are the majestic Himalayas.
Kashmiris are not Conservative
How very far do you live from India?
You probably don’t live too far. So, it won’t take much time for most of us to recall the trend of being ‘conservative’. I don’t think any of us has really witnessed such a demise of being conservative that it will make it deserve some nostalgia. Very similarly, Kashmiri society is in a process of transition. In fact, Kashmiri society is to some extent very accommodative in letting people be themselves. However, I do not mean to make my words a panegyric. It is true that like in most of the small towns or cities of India the options offered are not as wide as those offered in metropolitan cities.
Not all Women wear Burqas
One of the most absurd stereotypes that I came across was related to Hijab and Burqas. People believe Kashmiri women to be in love with the black cloak or often make very lame claims that women in Kashmir are forced to wear it.
Kashmir being a Muslim dominated state, does have a plenty of women autonomously, decisively and proudly wearing Hijabs and Burqas. It has not been forced on them. A large number of women in Kashmir don’t wear Burqas and Hijabs and do so without much difficultly. In fact, the trend of wearing Islamic clothes is relatively recent. We see stylish mothers and aunts who don’t wear Hijabs, along with beautiful daughters who do and vice versa. This blend is quiet liberating.
Kashmir can be as safe as your Neighbourhood
The most saddening fact is that a lot of people would love to go to Kashmir but are scared to do so.
Streets in Kashmir are not filled with cross fire combats or a bomb blast every now and then. In fact, Srinagar, that is to say your Dal Lake dream place, has been very safe over a couple of years. Even before that, you would very rarely find yourself caught in some trouble. Scenes are very similar to those in Delhi or elsewhere- only prettier.
Not everything is normal in Kashmir
Yes the streets are normal, the beauty is exhilarating but Kashmiris are not living like most of the Indians or Americans or Pakistanis. Kashmir is still fighting its battle for an identity. The innocent Kashmiris have been caught up in, what has been termed by UN, AMNESTY international and various other popular voices, as a circle of Human Rights violation. Kashmiris are not violent people, they are victims. They don’t like throwing stones at random people. Kashmiris throw stones as a reaction. It is for the sane and just voices to decide what instigated or continues to instigate them.
Picture Credits: Towfiq Ahmad