Kashmir is more than you watch on TV

Solo women travellers who enjoyed their stay and trips to Kashmir at every turn of the road defy all negative portrayal of Kashmir.
Many women have enjoyed their solo trips to Kashmir over the past few years.
A solo traveller, Kanika Gupta, on a social travel platform Tripoto writes in her blog titled ‘How Safe is Kashmir’ writes: “Kashmir is everything that you read in the papers and see in the news channels, but oh it is so much more.”
“We can write songs about their hospitality, spend endless hours listening to their quirky stories, and revel in their dark humor, sharing a laugh as they mock everything that is wrong with the valley.”
She said that in the well known so called ‘no-go zone’ ‘Nowhatta’ area downtown, a local shopkeeper asked her “Are you travelling alone? Come stay with us or at least visit us for a cup of Kehwa.”
“I have been to Kashmir now four times and I am on to my 5th round. The Hotel owner, that was my Couch Surfing host, soon became like a father figure who ensured my safety and treated me like family. All help is just a phone call away and today I have friends on that very street who keenly await my arrival. It is a home away from home, amid speculated disturbances,” she further added in her blog.
She added that Kashmir may not be ‘travel-safe’ if advisories are to be believed, “but it is definitely one of the friendliest places I have ever visited”.
“The valley and its people are known for its deep rooted sense of warmth and friendliness. Everywhere you go, the first thing they will do is call you out for a cup of Kehwa. They welcome strangers into their homes, their lives and take pride in that. They want you take back fond memories and unforgettable experiences of their lands, and hope against hope that you will share the right message, enlightening people that they are not what the media wants you to believe.”
She further writes: “The no-go zones are gifted in the sense that you have this beauty to yourself. When I visited Chatpal in South Kashmir, I was stunned to see that I am the only person in the entire village, accompanied by some villagers directed by the tourism department to help me during my stay. It was scary at first, but I soon started to enjoy the isolation. The staff was on their heels the whole time, going out of their way to ensure I was well fed. They even cooked my favorite dishes.”
She added in her blog that the question of safety in Kashmir, or anywhere in the world, is superfluous. “Everybody has their own definition of risk and have their own battles to fight when they go outside the proverbial comfort zone.”
Manjulika Pramod, another woman traveller, says that the Kashmir valley is one of the most beautiful places in India and Srinagar is among its star attractions.
“For years, I had itched to see this beautiful part of India but it was only last year that I got lucky. I not only got an opportunity to experience the gorgeous vibes of Gulmarg but also discover the serenity of Srinagar. I stayed there for a week and the duration of my visit was very interesting because it gave me a chance to attend the magnificent Tulip Festival that takes place in Srinagar every year,” she writes in her blog.
She further added lot of people might discourage you from visiting Kashmir.
“Even the media keeps reporting so many things that you really need guts to plan a trip to that part of the world. But trust me the truth is different. Nobody has qualms with tourists. Gulmarg is absolutely safe and friendly. You might feel a little uncomfortable in Srinagar initially, but the beauty of the place will take away all the inhibitions. The locals are extremely helpful and welcoming.”
Mridula Dwivedi, another solo woman traveller, an academic from India said on her blog traveltales that she is passionate about trekking and travelling.
Mridula praises Kehwa, the local Kashmiri tea in her blog and put the heading Food Souvenir – Kehwa, The Flavour Of Kashmir.
“When we went to the Kashmir Tourism Office, they served us Kehwa. I was renewing my love affair with this delicious tea. It tastes heavenly and its aroma is out of this world. As I drink a lot of tea and I do very little exercise I have given up on sugar in my tea. Kehwa tastes good even without sugar,” she further writes.
She further says that after drinking Kehwa for a few days “I promised myself that I would carry the Kehwa mix back home.”

(Sabreen Ashraf is a 3rd semester student of Dept of Journalism and Mass Communication, Govt College for Women, MA Road, Srinagar.)

First published in Rising Kashmir on March 21, 2018