Sunday, August 23, 2009

Valley of Dreams...

Just when I thought that life has gone on at a pretty lull pace for a long time, came the news that my hubby will have to go to Kashmir on an official trip for 10 days. Had it been the period before 1988 we all would have looked forward to the trip and in all probability i would have attempted to join him. But since the region – though one of the most beautiful on this planet – has been in News for all the wrong reasons, I was forced to stay back and pray that everything goes well. Well, thankfully, everything did go well, and he came back rich with memories and stunning photographs of a virtual paradise on earth. Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir is a breathtakingly beautiful valley in the northern Himalayan ranges. The temperatures were most comfortable in the range of 25-28 degree C, and the morning view from the room was a stunner. One could see snow on the mountain tops even though late July is a peak summer month. He was told by the locals that these are the hottest months in srinagar (they should visit the north Indian plains to see what heat is all about!). So, for late July, the hottest in Srinagar was cool enough for him, and it was a pleasant surprise to see that security situation in that place was not at all as deplorable as the general perception is. The place abounds in gardens, with some of the very famous Shalimar and Nishad gardens leading the pack. The pictures of these beautiful gardens with Himalayan ranges on one side and the pristine, pure Dal Lake on other, made me yearn to have the experience first hand. Dal lake is a landmark almost synonymous with srinagar. The lake is unsurpassed in beauty, with beautiful houseboats of Victorian era lining its both sides. One can stay in these house boats and enjoy the divine natural beauty – lotuses, water chestnuts, lilies, and numerous exotic birds which throng the lake. Gulmarg is one lovely hill station atop the Himalayan range encircling Srinagar valley. It was again – a paradise within a paradise. The slopes of the meandering roads leading to the hill station were covered in Daisies. The hill station itself was an abode of flowers: Gulmarg literally means place of roses. Hill station was bathed in crystal clear sunlight with the daisies gleaming in delight as sunlight shone on them. The slopes, now covered with flowers, turn into world famous ski slopes with the onset of winters.This is one place which has to be visited repeatedly in different seasons to be able to imbibe its complete beauty. During the months of August- September there is a bounty of apple crop and one can only imagine the site presented by the apple laden trees which line every path, every house. October to February is the time for snowfall, when one can enjoy Skiing on the beautiful slopes of Gulmarg. March heralds the onset of pleasant weather conditions with flowers blooming all over the landscape and especially in Srinagar’s majestic Mughal gardens. The photographs of Srinagar and Gulmarg were enough to leave me crying over the missed opportunity to visit the places, but there was more. Just when I thought that nature has been a trifle unfair in bestowing its best to Srinagar and Gulmarg, came the mention of Pahalgam.Whole of Pahalgam is a big recreational resort, and to quote a line from my hubby who got inspired by the beauty first hand – ‘It is better than any fairy land of the kind I had imagined on reading little fairy tales’. Plants appear to be in love with the place too. These blooming beauties stand testimony to the kind of place Pahalgam is for plant lovers. . Drive from Sringar to Pahalgam takes 2-3 hours, and midway through the drive the sparkling clear waters of this river accompany you well inside Pahalgam. The journey is fascinating with absolutely no music required as the sound of flowing river water is a melody no man made music can match. Chinar trees were in plenty there. The beautiful Lake, the flora, the weather, the huge Himalayan ranges, friendly people, sprawling gardens, freely flowing jhelum river…Srinagar has it all; yet the paradise has been made inaccessible to the common people on account of terrorism. P.S – Kashmir is a hot bed of dispute between the neighboring countries of India and Pakistan. It is definitely not my point or authority to decide or comment on the respective claims, but one thing is certain that to be deprived of a visit to such a place because of the conditions created by self serving politicians is a huge injustice towards humankind.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Indian Summer!!!

Life has been in slight disarray over past one month. Hot and humid summer months are always a stress, not only personally, but professionally as well. The number of patients suffering from viral fever and gastroenteritis goes up drastically sparing me with less time for other things. A side effect of all this has been borne by my garden and my blog. The lawns do not present a pretty picture with unkempt tall grass making me a little shame faced. All kinds of small creatures have made their abode in these tall grasses. The pruning and cutting work has been relatively better managed, thanks to my garden help who obviously wasn’t constrained by the weather factor; he is a weather hardened guy totally unperturbed by any sorts of heat or humidity. The mango tree disappointed this season and I couldn’t have more than a single piece of my favorite fruit from it. But the loss in the quantity of mangoes – if not the taste – was made up by the jamun(Indian blackberry) tree, which produced an abundance of sweet jamuns; a very rich source of anti-oxidants. I tried several innovative – if I dare call them so – techniques to conserve the vegetables, guarding them against the onslaught of bugs emboldened by their favorite hot and humid weather, but most of those ‘innovative’ techniques fell back on my face: the security ring around the bitter gourd - the newspaper cover - was compromised, and these nasty bugs... ended up enjoying a meal leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. With my aversion to the use of pesticides I feel like a dumb standing there mutely watching the parasites eat into my labor and patience. I believe in trying to avoid too much negativity, and so the issue of bird eaten, bug-laden guavas will be discussed some other time. Meanwhile, the silver lining is that barring supernatural wrath things cannot go any worse; hence I can expect a recovery from hereon. This year the weather has played very truant with exceptional humidity and failed rains, but by first of September things will start getting cooler and hopefully, we will have a healthy blossoming season ahead (The threat of Swine Flu notwithstanding).


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