So our first day in Kashmir was spent visiting and admiring the Mughal Gardens. Our second day began with us waking up at 9 and Maria didi dashing off to the University. The rest of us, Abhilasha, Nandita, and I, went for a walk after breakfast and tried exploring the campus a little.
We collected different kinds of leaves and I picked a few flowers when no one was looking. Except for us, it seemed like everything else was still and mysterious. The tall Chinar trees added a whole new dimension to the picture we’d had of Kashmir on arrival. The Chinar trees were supposedly imported from Iran when the Mughals were ruling India.
But this is disputed. The population in Kashmir is still largely Muslim. In fact that was one reason we’d packed only conservative Indian clothes to wear there. We especially wanted to blend in after someone, meaning well, advised us that although the Kashmiri government encourages Tourism, tourists aren’t particularly liked. But after having spent three of the loveliest days there with everyone being so nice and helpful, we found that last part difficult to accept.
For lunch one of the professors took us to the university canteen where we had a most delicious meal! Usually, I don’t enjoy meat all that much, but what we had that afternoon was a gourmet’s delight! I think what we had was chicken kebab. For certain, it was something with chicken. And we ate it with Naan. It tingles my taste buds even as a memory!
Almost all Kashmiri food is served with a salad/ chutney/ raita. I’m not sure what it was called but it enhanced the flavours of the curry. From what I could tell, it was made of mint, grated radish, and a few other herbs, all of it mixed in curd. I think we did ask for the recipe but can’t seem to recall anything specific.Well, all in all that was a fantastic meal that was only slightly overshadowed by conversation that was pretty sparkling.
Kashmiri girls really don’t wear jeans! Actually they do, but they don’t wear them outside their home. How glad we were for that clever person who advised us to pack our salwar kameez, saris, and chudidar suits!
After lunch we were taken shopping by a very nice Kashmiri girl. Her uncle was the owner of a Kashmiri handicrafts emporium, she told us,and would be willing to subsidize rates for us. Not only did we get the best discounts on Kashmiri handicrafts but we were also offered Kahwah, Kashmiri Tea. Apart from Pashmina wool, Walnuts, Apples, its scenic beauty, Papier Mache handicrafts, and Pherans, Kashmir is famous for its Saffron. And the main ingredient in Kahwah is the saffron. I cannot even begin to describe how delicious the tea was. The flavour was delicate and its fragrant intoxicating. The herbs in the tea relax and have other health benefits if taken with a natural sweetener. Imagine something so yummy being equally healthy! These three tourists were in love with everything about the place.
After having shopped to our hearts’ content we went to the Dal Lake. We actually wanted to take a Shikara to the Char Chinar. But as it was getting dark we just had time to pose in one and then jump into a motor boat to the Char Chinar.
The Char Chinar is a famous spot in Srinagar as many Hindi movies have been shot there. It gets its name ‘Char Chinar’ after the four Chinar trees on the four corners of this tiny island. By the time we got there it was already dark but still breath taking. On three sides there were mountains and on one side sparkling lights from the city. The perfect view to close Day 2.