A place is made of its people. There must have been a time when there weren’t strong political boundaries. There were no visa applications, immigration or security check. One could move like a nomad, halt wherever he wanted, eat whatever he wanted and sing the local song. What would have been the answer, if someone was asked the question then? Which one is your most favourite place? Boundary less world would have been the top in the opinion poll.
Times have changed. It’s for us to figure out whether for good or bad. I have experienced various cultures across different continents and countries. In the process, I have come across eager, warm, not so welcome, angry, reluctant and happy faces. Each face had a story to tell. Some known and some untold. It’s these stories and realization that makes a place special to me. The natural resources, the magnificent architecture, waterfalls, sky diving etc, makes a place a tourist attraction but what are the memories you carry back with you when you travel? It’s the people of that particular place. A note of help, a warm hug, a bright smile and promises to meet once again if fate agrees.
I can’t forget the Bell Boy in my hotel at Hong Kong. Every night, after his shift, he would give me company and share his stories with this solo traveler. Nor can I ever forget the roadside flower seller from Bangladesh in Athens, who was elated to find us from Calcutta and handed a rose to my wife. The Chauffeur in Mauritius, used to urge us to sing Hindi Bollywood songs and he would join us too. These memories are quicker to remember than the tourist spots.
There is one place, where I have traveled with my family and discovered a true paradise. This place was always known for its natural beauty but there were several misconceptions about the people. Having said that, true paradise is a combination of natural beauty and the people that reside there. The place, which is in news for all wrong reasons, for more than two decade now, with little or no hope for future, is a place which I want to go back again and again. It’s Kashmir. They call it ‘Jannat’ or paradise. Speaking about Kashmir and its beauty will be monotonous or rather boring to some extent. It’s the people that I came across as I travelled across the length and breadth which makes up this story.
The elderly guide who lifted up my son on his shoulder during a snow storm at Gulmarg, told me – Bhaisaab I have a grandson of this age. The learned, extremely good looking, soft spoken wait staff in Hotel Nadoos invited me for his marriage to try out the most authentic wazwan. He shared his traumatic childhood and how at times, when he left his home in morning for school, he didn’t know if he will be able to return. My chauffeur, a person who offers his namaz for 5 times a day, acted as a local guardian as he took us around places where there were bomb blasts and terrorist activities even few hours prior to our travel. As we navigated through one of the terror struck areas, the car broke down. I had my three year old son on my lap. No amount of effort by Mansoor bhai, our chauffeur, was enough to get the car going. We were stranded in a place which had seen some serious shootouts few hours back. When the locals came to help us, the old head of the village even got food for my kid, I knew this place is magical.
Kashmir has got all that one wishes to experience on a holiday. Exotic landscapes, architectural marvels, an enticing history, great cuisine, rich local art and craft, easy connectivity and above all, warm people. We were told, that no matter what happens, no one in Kashmir touches the tourists. I love Kashmir to an extent, that I pray for the well being of the valley and people and I wish many more come to this paradise on Earth.
- Anindya Sundar Basu
- : A travel and food writer and an enthusiastic photographer , Anindya is the founder of award winning blog pikturenama. In his blog he journals the travel stories along breathtaking pictures . He loves Kolkata, Kosha Mangsho and cricket
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- : I have always been keen on unearthing travel stories beyond the normal information sharing. Whenever I am travelling, I like to travel that extra mile to meet people, share a meal with them to get a flavour of local culture and tradition. My blog is a potpourri of pictures across the places I travel and stories woven around then.
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- : This is the first time this story has been published.