As mentioned yesterday, Najia Dar is my good friend from medical school. I remember when we first met on the first day of orientation 9 months ago, talking about Kashmir as one of my top travel destinations. I remember when Najia told me she had family there and that quipped how I should stay with them whenever I find myself there. And I remember thinking: “Hah, me in Kashmir? That’ll be the day.”
Less than 9 months later, I’m here, hanging out with her entire extended family in Kashmir (and attending her cousin’s wedding no less!) and staying at their place under the care of their incredible hospitality. I had completely rearranged my itinerary to get here: Dharamsala would be moved, and a day in Jaisalmer would be cut, and the change would be worth it. Insh’allah!
After being picked up from the Butterfly houseboat, we were received like family by the Dars. We were first sent off to tour a school of which one of Najia’s uncles is campus director.
We came upon an amazing educational institution where students from 2 to 20 years old take practical vocational classes such as pharmacology, dentistry, and physiology. Seeing over 10,000 books in their 2 libraries (2!) we were overwhelmed with the quality of education that these 1,500 young adults were receiving. Where in the United States will you get classes like physiology before the age of 20?
Afterwards, we toured a Kashmiri silk factory of which Najia’s uncle is also director. Having owned both Mysore and Banares silk from India, I put Kashmiri silk to the test. Unlike the hardness sheen of Mysore silk, Kashmiri is incredibly soft to the touch. I wanted one for myself immediately after feeling a few. And it was so kind of Najia’s uncle to take some samples back with us.
We then headed to Gulmarg, which is India’s top ski-centre during the winter and golf course during the summer. These are the sweeping hills that people speak of when they describe Kashmir’s unparalleled beauty, from which you can get views of peaks like K2 (the 2nd highest peak in the world).
Gulmarg is about 50-60km outside of Srinagar, and costs 50 rupees to enter. Despite being accosted by multiple touts for pony rides or guides, we went off on our own to take the gondola up to the top (300 rupees). And the views can speak for themselves.
Afterwards, we arrived back at the family home. The rest was mayhem (in a good way).
Here are some scenes from a Kashmiri wedding. Try to compare this with that of a Christian wedding in the U.S.:
– At time of posting in Srinagar, it was 64.4 °F – Humidity: 71% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy