My Time in Kashmir

  • Kanika Gupta
  • Publish Date: Aug 10 2017 8:44PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 10 2017 8:44PM
My Time in Kashmir

I have backpacked in Europe, Himachal Pradesh, solo trekked in Nepal’s Annapurna region, and most recently made a trip to Kashmir. It is this trip that can easily be called as the turning point in my life

I am travel blogger by passion and a content writer by profession. Located in Delhi, I am a literature graduate and masters in business administration. I think I have always had a case of wanderlust but it took me at least 5-6 years to realize that I am not meant to work from an office cubicle and that life happens outside your comfort zone, thus LifeOutside2by2 was born.

LifeOutside2by2 is my personal blog that I started just a couple of months before. I have been travelling for over 4 years and some of those stories would have died inside my travel journal if I didn’t take the step to build a blog. In a world where new blogs are coming up by the second, each better than the last one, I feel that my strength lies in my niche that is adventure travel in India and beyond.

I have backpacked in Europe, Himachal Pradesh, solo trekked in Nepal’s Annapurna region, and most recently made a trip to Kashmir. It is this trip that can easily be called as the turning point in my life. I gained a lot of clarity and insight into the kind of travel I really enjoyed and how I would like to travel in the future.

Kashmir was a plan that took a while to formulate and even longer to execute. Even though I have been to Kashmir once before, it was only a transit point for my further travel to Leh. This time I wanted to visit Kashmir for Gurez, a quaint village in north Kashmir that I saw in a movie “Highway.” When I saw the place, I googled the shooting locations and found this little gem tucked inside a Wikipedia page. Since then my mind was made up, Gurez was calling me and I had to go.

While I have been toying with the idea for a few years, somehow 2017 was to be the year of my travel to Kashmir. However, telling my friends and family members about my decision to see Gurez was like axing my own feet. With long list of what-ifs, followed by reasons why I shouldn’t go and how militants are always waiting for powerless victims for propaganda, I was made to believe that I have a death wish on my mind. Trust me when I say this, this was not the craziest reason I was given to discourage me!

But adventure soul that I am, the more people told me not, the more I was getting excited about making the trip. I started my own due diligence, asked a few locals in Kashmir if it is safe to travel, spoke to a local in Srinagar through CouchSurfing to host my stay and booked my flight tickets. Just like that, I took the most life changing decision in a matter of few days.

Then the day came when I was to leave for Kashmir, I almost developed cold feet and had half a mind to not board that flight to Srinagar. But two beers later, I was convinced that I had to this, after all 2017 was the year when I decided to overcome all my fears and do the things that scared the crap out of me. But to my disappointment, Srinagar flight was uneventful and so was arriving in the capital. It was quiet, blossoming with roses, welcoming and cheerful. Where are all those stone-pelters the news channels can’t stop showing or gun wielding military personnel who have unspeakable powers?

My first few days in Srinagar was nothing like I had anticipated. It was, in fact, fun and so enjoyable. The city was gearing up for a full month of Ramzan. Kashmir was waking up after Burhan Wani slumber of 2016 and ready to greet an influx of tourists.

On the first day in Srinagar, I met a solo traveler from Mumbai who was returning from Gurez and gave me the confidence that it is perfectly safe to go up there! I was getting more confident about my trip and happy to be in vivacious Srinagar. In a place where tourists are still scared to travel, I met two incredibly awesome solo traveling women who wanted to see it to believe it, just like me. Naturally we bonded very well and spent the next few days in the company of each other.

The three of us went boating in the night, caught fish from the lake, walked by the dal lake in the evening and pretty much did all there was to do without any concern or worry. However, just as I was planning to travel further, Sabzar Bhatt incident happened and everything in Kashmir came to a standstill. It also worried me because I didn’t know what that meant for my trip. The business owners that were happy just a few days ago suddenly looked grim because this certainly meant loss of business for the days to come. After all, every such incident that happens in Kashmir instantly frightens the tourists.

I remember being stuck in Srinagar for more than a week following this incident, living their life of curfew, strike, internet blackout and uncertainty. By the way, did I tell you I was planning to stay in Kashmir for a week only and then travel to Leh? I don't know when I changed my mind and dropped the plan of visiting Leh altogether. Instead, I decided to stay in Kashmir and explore the heart and soul of this place. I wanted know what these people are made of, how do they live their lives amid insecurity, how do they remain so optimistic and how do they continue to spread cheer and hospitality when they are clearly falling apart.

Following this incident, I spent a total of 35 days in Kashmir, exploring offbeat villages such as Chatpal, Aru, Gurez, Tulail Valley, Junial and Lidderwat, as well as touristic places like Sonamarg and Pahalgam. Regardless of where I stayed or travelled, I was amazed at the care I received, love and affection that came my way, how selflessly people invited me over to their home and wanted to hear my story. They found my solo travel ways very odd, but they accepted it without any judgments. I met amazing nomad families while I trekked in the region and made some life long friends in every village I went to.

My whole Kashmir experience was one of kind. It was the most well-rounded travel experience that give me a 360-degree view into the lives of its people, their Kashmiriyat, their culture and the beauty of their soul. I was so touched by their friendliness and warmth that I couldn’t stop myself from planning another trip soon enough.

Kashmir is a gifted place. It has nature’s gift for being the most beautiful place and also humanity’s gift for having the loveliest people. I met one too many travelers on my trip that I connected with at a very deep level. They were the ones who cared to look at a destination outside of media’s lens and see for themselves what it really is. While I would be lying if I say Kashmir is 100% safe, but I can almost say with certainty that a Kashmiri will never misguide you into believing that it is safe to travel when it is not, even it meant loss of business for them. As a single woman traveling, I placed my trust in their hands and they never made me regret it!