Gulmarg, those rolling vales and the endearing open places where Shammi Kapoor romanced Sharmila Tagore and his younger brother Shashi danced around singing to Raakhee— well they are still there. A little neglected and slushy, but the few horses that roam free add to the charm. A solitary Shiv Mandir on a rise looks down on a shantytown. As we troop up to the temple, I find a large horse also decides to follow me, sure-footed up the steps. I step aside and quickly click a picture – obviously he thinks of this as his domain.
The temple is well maintained and the kids love the brightly coloured cosmos and calendula all around. The sense of openness extends beyond the horizon as the hills form a gentle background to this serenity.
We take a peep into the erstwhile Maharajas’ summer cottage, which we are told is now being used for conferences etc.
We take a ride up to the peaks on the gondolas. My four brave kids, decide to trek up to a small lake at 15000 ft, along with the guide, Shabir, who does this for a living. I do my grandma duties and keep the three little ones occupied at the gondola station. The cook there happily made Maggie noodles for the kids who enjoyed this forbidden treat—- ‘But Nani…’ ‘But Dadi ….. mama does not allow us this.” ‘Never mind, just eat it!’ not a speck was left!
Read The First Part : Dil-Paziir: Visiting Srinagar After 20 Years – I
The young parents are back, exhilarated at their trekking adventure. Before the kids can complain about Nani/Dadi breaking food rules, I confess! As long as the kids did not throw a tantrum, Granny survived!
We stop at a handicraft store where the kids buy a few knick-knacks. I am sitting in the Gypsy when I spot one of the youngsters from the store walking across, maybe going home for lunch! He spots me and comes across. He pulls out one huge apple from his bag and gives it to me, “Yeh aap ke liye, aap khao!”(this is for you, please have it)
I am touched by his endearing gesture but tell him to carry on – it is probably his lunch.
He tells me ‘Main aur le loonga, peecche poora baagh hai’(I will get some more , there is a whole orchard behind!)
That got me out of the car—to see ripe apples on the trees! What a treat! Of course on the Air Force Station, we had been breaking apples from the Commandants house(without his knowledge!!).
Seeing my excitement the boys from the store came back in 15 minutes with at least a dozen apples, which would have weighed at least 3-4 kilos. And they would not let us pay a penny! They got us a knife and we were all crunching down on apples and walking around the store!
On the way back, we stop at another restaurant where Mayur, my restaurateur/foodie son-in-law ordered another round of Kashmiri cuisine, the ones we felt were rich enough and flavoured enough so we don’t forget—the Roganjosh and methi Chaman along with the rista were ordered and wolfed down! Meanwhile, Preetika (my daughter-in-law) suggested that we wash it down with kahwa and we did.
**Dil-Paziir (Urdu; meaning ‘heart-pleasing’) is a special edition positive news series brought to you by Digpu, starting from Kashmir. Our local journalists have successfully shared many inspirational stories from the valley – from the invention of E-Charkha, automatic ventilator in Kashmir, stories of brotherhood through to the first-ever cricket tourney for Blind sportsmen, all the stories make us awe-struck.