First Stop Kashmir….Pahalgam

We couldn’t have done better than start our brief four-day Kashmir trip with Pahlagam. Zahoor was ready with his Innova to drive us straight from Srinagar airport to Pahalgam with a brief stopover at ‘ Zamindar’s’ where we could buy saffron and dry fruits and sample the kahwa from the shop next door. Zahoor had a wonderful collection of Hindi film music sorted by singers – Kishore, Mukesh, Rafi, Lata  – and he sang along the first lines of most songs. When the songs got too ancient Jojo switched to his iPod and earphones.

Kahwa Samovar

We got lucky with the guesthouse we had chosen for our two-day stay. The MilkyWay was located at a very good spot with a wonderful view of the mountains. Nice terrain to walk around and explore. The boss man Fayaaz and his boys (all very handsome, with sharp features) were very friendly, serving with a smile, making us really feel at home. The cooking was homely too, tasty, without too much oil and spices. The meals usually included rice, chapatti, daal, salad, two vegetables and chicken. dinner included a basic soup. There was puri-sabzi and omlette-bread for breakfast. Dessert was not their scene though ( halwa, phirni) and could do with some improvement.

Milky Way, Pahalgam

Our neighbours were two brothers with roots in Srinagar. The elder one was now teaching in a business school and he had come with his twenty-two year old son who had just graduated. The younger brother was in education, presently based in Delhi. Their family had a Shiva temple some twenty kilometers from Srinagar and it was very dear to them. They had come to Pahalgam to go on a day-long hike along the route they had covered decades back.

Utkal around Milky Way 1

We just wanted to sit on the sofa in front of the rooms and chill. Fortunately, the shelf at the reception had a small but wonderful collection of books (left behind by guests I suspect). We picked up Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tzaki’ and ‘ Mohammad Waheed’s ‘ The Book of Gold Leaves’. The latter is a lyrical love story with a Kashmiri backdrop and was a surprise discovery.

Murakami and Mirza Waheed

There was no mobile or Net connectivity – at least for AirTel and Vodaphone subscribers. With no calls, Whatsapp messages or Facebook posts to distract you the mind got tuned to things just being, with no need to for anything to happen. There were no newspapers. There was a TV in the room, but we never bothered to switch it on.

With all those magnificent mountains around you did it matter who won the COPA or what was the result of Brexit?

View from Milky Way 2

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