I was travelling in a metro rail in Delhi a few years back. It was a crowded compartment with people of all corners of India rubbing shoulders with one another. I saw two young fair skin youngsters engrossed in a newspaper and chatting in a language that sounded alien to me. I got curious and slowing started getting closer to them – just to understand what they are talking about.
Despite my best efforts I could not understand even a word of their conversation. They somehow figured out that I am trying to listen to their conversation and that made them uncomfortable. I figured that out and started looking out of the window to give them some assurance that there is no visible threat to their privacy.
After a few stops, metro started getting empty and luckily all three of us got seats – next to each other. I decided to strike up a conversation with them.
“Where are you from” I asked them with a smiling face.
One of them replied – “Srinagar” and added – “The real one, not the one which is in Uttarakhand”.
I was surprised with this reply. I didn’t expect such a sharp response to an otherwise innocent query.
“What’s your name”. I tried to continue the conversation.
This time the other man carrying a laptop said in a husky tone “I am Bilal and he is my cousin Ashraf”.
“Nice meeting you Bilal and Ashraf. Welcome to Delhi. I would like to know about Srinagar – the real one”. I said with a wink and that made both of them smile.
Next fifteen minutes they kept telling me about Srinagar and why I should visit the city once and should not give any heed to the usual portrayal of the city in mainstream media. Some of the monuments that they mentioned are still etched my memory.
Dal Lake – the jewel of Srinagar is the most important landmark of Srinagar. It is part of a natural wetland that covers an area of about 21 sq km which also includes floating gardens. The floating gardens, known for lotus flowers, are known as ‘Rad’ in the Kashmiri language.
Nishat Bagh is located on the eastern side of the Dal Lake. It is the second largest Mughal garden in the Kashmir Valley. The largest in size is the Shalimar Bagh, which is also located on the bank of the Dal Lake. ‘Nishat Bagh’ in Urdu, which means “Garden of Joy,” “Garden of Gladness” and “Garden of Delight. Nishat Bagh is laid out now is a broad cascade of terraces lined with avenues of chinar and cypress trees, which starts from the lakeshore and reaches up to an artificial façade at the hill end.
The hill hosts a temple of Lord Shiva on its top. This ancient temple was built in the ninth century A.D. Made of grey stone blocks and is one of the oldest designs of the country. The best part about this temple is that electronic devices are strictly not allowed there and you can truly disconnect! The Shankaracharya Hill offers a pleasant panoramic view over the entire Srinagar!
Ask me why I remember this conversation eve after so many years. My answer is – prejudices destroy everything. Its better to go and experience on your own, see things and do not believe in hearsay.
That day I saw desperation to change the image of Srinagar among the common people in India. Should we not give them a hearing?