Honeymoon again, Tulips again—-By Rashmi Talwar
It is not a joke. Advertisements offering honeymoon packages to Kashmir have started to pop on our virtual windows. Charles Darwin had once said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’
It has taken nearly a quarter of a century for Kashmir to be mapped once again as a honeymoon destination and it could not have happened without an almost aggressive and aggrieved population’s fervent desire for change. The demands of the people too is witness to a shift from protests to demands for basic amnesties of -power, roads, water supply, gaining ground daily, relegating the flarings, stone-pelting to the back burner.
Once again, the scenario has emerged craving for normalcy of honeymooner’s dream of a water-stay at the dancing houseboats on the languorous Dal/ Nagin lake with Shikara’s playful rides thrown in for romantic rendezvous on unhurried waters, rippling off and on by paddles, amidst a surreal view of mighty Himalayan ranges.
Floating shops of flowers and fresh fruit to enrapture and steer moods to fulfil longings. With such beauteous nature drawing in the rainbow trails, romance would indeed be as natural as a winged creature taking a zig-zag glide in the bluest skies.
The concept of honeymoon when conceived amongst couples married in 60s and 70s, Kashmir’s was a natural sprint to win the march as the choicest destination– to sow the seed for a progeny !
Invariably one found photos on mantel pieces of couples hugging, in a Kashmiri outfit holding a flower basket or a baby goat or gaily decorated pitcher, kangri, samovar, looking deep into eyes or finger pointing to a Chinar grove or a flowing river, clicked by roadside photo studios along Pahalgam’s Lidder river.
And one guessed that the immediate first child came from there, to the delight of parents who pushed, coaxed and hurried newly-weds to graduate them to be grandparents.
I too am one of those products conceived in these romantic locales.
However some fragrances are haunting never peacefully evaporating, just lingering, lying and awaiting a sliver of coincidence to trail a flashback.
Last year in Kashmir, to cover the first Comedy-Fest in Srinagar held after bitter turmoil of 24 years, it fortunately was as if time had stood still, traces of turmoil had vanished and mirth filled the once-tensed air. It was as if realms of media had faked Kashmir’s turmoil. Stories about bloodshed sounded hollow, concocted and the familiar lilt of music from whooshing winds- whistling in trees, flip-flapping waters and an air of spring filled the merciful air.
I started my lines for Comedy-Fest thus “-‘Myon Shoosh’–My Love-whisper the majestic Kashmir mountains to me, opening their tessellated imposing arms, in a bear hug. I immerse into their beauty. The prickly needles of emerald hued conifers outlining their conical bodies, hurt me no more, they bring tickles at first, a smile and then a rolling laugh. It has been a quarter of a century since I last set foot in this wondrous land. ‘Maayi Barut Istaqbaal’ – Warm Welcome, ‘Khush Aamdeed’ – Happy Tidings, they murmur softly in my ear.”
I am convinced that this year too would be no joke and the undulating mountains, punchy clouds and swooshing waters known for their fabulous hospitality would be ‘Ashiqana’ lover-like, wondrous , inviting, embracing and enveloping .
Honeymooners would once again traipse on flower bedecked meadows of Gulmarg, watch the Gold topped peaks of Sonmarg, touch waters of emerging Jhelum in Verinag or could lazily stroll or float along the Dal lake just like me, past midnight, listening to Bollywood number ‘Bol na halke Halke ..” on their mobile, and many a ‘tulip’ would be conceived, thus. Maybe, one ‘litlu’ one, under the mighty shade of a Chinar. And parents would be too embarrassed to divulge the secrets of the one, from a river bank or from behind the ferns and bushes, still another may have a story to tell about the deadly strike of ‘Bichchu booti’ during a coiteus .
Saffron would break into blooms, slopes be emblazoned with wildflowers, Snow-laden mountains inviting and amidst them, honeymoon Houseboats ‘Nishat’ or ‘Kushdi’ – touted as the best for Honeymooners in the package- would boast housefuls ! and many a new love would retrace their footsteps to ‘shikaras’ under the stars and moon, oozing that truest promise of love, maybe on a night of Shab-e-Miraj, the night when the Koran is sung only in Kashmir.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON APRIL 17, 2012