Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Gift from Piggy Bank

Gift from Piggy Bank

Mother’s Day – all these were not known in our days. But today media makes it known to all. The awareness is high. The essence of the day pervades through the atmosphere well in advance.
My nine year son, Apoorva sat besides me when I was writing the poem “Mother – an epitome to sacrifice”. He stayed glued to my laptop till late in the night. On all such days, he would normally start preparation of his hand made gifts. But this time he had kept it all secret. He had neither asked me for any money nor his mother.
On Saturday, when I returned from the office, he came to me.
“Papa- you’ll have to come to the market along with me.” He told with his hands locked at the back.
“Anything important” I asked, turning towards his mother to see if she knew anything.” But she bore a blank face too.
“Abhi chalo” He became a little more persuading.
“We’ll go tomorrow, as it is already late but tell me the reason. Why and where to go?”
He brought his hand to the front, there was a small poly bag holding coins of one, two and five.
“I have Rs.387.00. I want to buy present for mummy for tomorrow on Mother’s Day”.
And he had a list ready with him – Lip Stick, Hair Bands etc. etc. …… in the other hand.
I looked towards Richa in dismay – if she knew about it.
She shook her head slowly in negative.
He had broken his earthen piggy bank. I had a smile on my face but didn’t want to make it evident.
“You could have taken the money from me. Why did you break it?”
“No! I want this from my money only. You just convert it into rupees as the shopkeeper would not take change.”
I could not scold him, just said – “don’t do it again without informing one of us.”
Richa too stood with smile on her face.
We took him in arms and moved towards the market. He bought things as per his list and got it wrapped to ensure that the first thing he does in the morning is - give his present.
Such sensitive are our children now.
Just wanted to share with you all.
Aditya Sinha

Originally posted on Mother's day on Sulekha : http://creative.sulekha.com/gift-from-piggy-bank_413459_blog

Clandestine Chikan – An Unsung Fashion

Clandestine Chikan – An Unsung Fashion

The moment we say “Fashion” – latest designed clothes, flashy jewelry, some laces here, a torn there, out of mind innovation in looks etc. comes before the eyes. Fashion today perhaps means a trend not to be adorned by the common mass. You need to have an exceptional grit to accept the trends. And perhaps by the time you become used to and may think of adopting, the fashion would become outdated.   
“The styles and customs prevalent at a given time” is the Fashion. It changes regularly and rapidly. More so – affecting the culture as a whole as the time passes.  Many such innovations have made waves in their time but withered with the progress. Bell bottom pants, Dog Collars, Tights, Ethnic Jewelry, Boots, and many such names are there in this category. All that has stayed is simple and sober. One such class of its own is the Chikan embroidery adorned clothes. This has never made waves in the market but when worn elegantly would make anyone turn and have a look.
Having its birth in the Land of Nawabs, Chikankari has become synonymous to Lucknow. Essentially a handicraft, this is the bread earner for a good population of Awadh - the old Lucknow. It is a very complex and delicate form of embroidery primarily uses muslin clothes and confined to the city of Lucknow. The term 'Chikankari' originated from the Persian word Chikan meaning muslin wrought with needlework. Thought it borrowed its name from Persian the art is totally indigenous and has nothing to do with Persia. It developed in the courts of Nawabs and Masabdars. It was adorned by Nawabs and was a mark of austerity and elegance. It was then out of reach of the common masses. After the fall of the Nawab system the artisans started searching for newer avenues and this art opened for the masses.
The design motifs in Chikan are predominantly influenced by Mughal art, similar to those in Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Stitch is another distinctive feature. Various stitches are used in Chikankari varying according to the kind of designs and materials used. Satin stitch, stem stitch and chain stitch are some popular stitches.

Originally Chikan had very light, very soft Cotton cloth as base mostly in White. It fits to the extreme climate that this part of North India has.
Today Chikan has spread to all forms of cloths. Be it Sarees, Kurtas, Shirts, Tops, Handkerchief, Bed sheet …….anything. It has also expanded in its colour horizon. From white it first took light colour clothes as base and then spread to even gaudy shades. The most common in use is however the Sarees and the Kurtas.
Sarees vary from simple works to heave embroidery on cotton or even chiffon. It is further made even flashy by additional sequence, jari and seep works. It thus elegantly fits both casual and party time.
Chikan Kurtas – White is its soul. The best wear for men and women both in summers. As most of the time it has cotton as the base cloth it remains a cool wear.
Such exquisitely it stands aloof, elegantly and eloquently but has never gained the fame of being in fashion. It had been there always, and stands there adorned ever, too.
- A pleasure to wear, a mark of its own to leave, and a way different to live.
- Clandestine & Pure, Serene and calm.
- An impact solid and perpetual.
- Just like itself – never to wither.

So as we say “Beauty lies in the eyes of the Beholder.” – here is the beauty in Fashion.
Aditya Sinha

Standing Punished in Girls School Campus

Standing punished in Girls School Campus.

Deveika’s call on embarrassing moments has become such an interesting and happening affair that all of us started peeping in our past and came out with those rare moments which we would have preferred to forget. Such enthusiastic participation not only as an entry but also as live comments have enthralled and pulled us - the bloggers to post events again and again. Reading such khatta – mitha blogs has reminded me of one more such very interesting (I mean embarrassing) incident. The story of Red Rose posted earlier was a story of misunderstanding let’s see how I make a fool of myself here in my school days.
I was in Class XI in St. Michael’s, Patna. Hardly a km away was the girl’s school, Notre Dame. The two schools were always termed - as made for each other. So though we were not in a co-ed school, we seldom used to have some get- together, common plays, extra-curricular activities etc. Or otherwise a regular and most coveted guest for each other. The Father’s of our school were apple eye to the Mother’s of NDA. Only last year we had our (I mean class X Mikes and the class X Dames a common – pass out get-together – Socials.) So, in a way most of us knew our counterparts over there and were expected to be good to them.
One such event was being organized in NDA. It was a cultural night. You can just imagine how excited we the seniors of Mikes would have been. We were sent the invitations and all of us were just waiting for the night to arrive. And it did come. But I had some emergency on that fateful day and I had to miss the rare moments of watching them closely for one more time, dancing, giggling, eyeing and vying. Alas, I waited at my house for the event to get over and the news of the extravaganza to pour in live through my friends. In those days mobile was not available so instant communication was not possible. For the running commentary I had to wait. Those hours looked long but finally did end. And Sunny (the same guy whose red rose had caused all the problem in my last blog) came to my house. There were more who followed.
With a glee in my eyes I took him straight to my room.
How was it?
Who all were there?
What all happened? All question shot in one go.
And there were all spicy narrations. But with that also came some unhappy moments.
Two of them were denied entry. And obviously it was not bearable for any of us.
In fact the invitation passes had been forged. And so it became overcrowded. And the school authorities had to stop some of them from entering. Some parents too had to face this and were dejected too.
-My friend’s insult and parent’s insult.
We got charged. I was known for my acquaintance with newspaper. As I was a regular contributor to “Letter’s to Editor” “careless whisper” etc., I was expected to bring this to light.
All were looking towards me with expectant eyes. How could I deny?
Next what – A detailed letter got drafted and it was handed over to TOI. We all departed winner all the way.
The letter got published – and our names Aditya Sinha and Sunil Rai, class XI, SMHS, imprinted below it. The proud duo, with our heads high reached the school.
-Greetings all the way round and we on cloud nine.
The assembly got over and hardly had we entered our class room the PA system spoke : AS and SR – report to the Principal room.
So another congratulation was in waiting – we with our heads high reached the room.
Father Karthanam was pacing up and down in his room. His pink face hot and blue.
How’s and why’s?
Don’t you know the relationship that the two school has?
I knew it was a blunder done.
I had brought curse to this relationship.
Good sense prevailed and I asked pardon.
“I am no body to give you excuse”, he said after a lot of persuasion. (more because I was among the best student there and Sunny one of the best sports person).
“You go and meet Sister at NDA. She will excuse you”
You can feel how we fell from attic to dungeon within seconds. To add to it we were to report to the girls school.
We came out of the room, with our heads down. The anti- groups enjoying our pitiful condition.
We pulled our bicycle and moved to meet the “Sister”.
The Principal there was not willing to meet at first and she made us wait outside the office. And we stood like stupid for the principal to let us tell her the full story, the plight of the parents – which we had planned can only be our saviour.
The girls passing by gauzing through the corner of their eyes and then whispering – these are the guys who have written all this. Some sighs, some brows. And we stood there saving our face, waiting ……..
She finally had pity but only after the whole day has passed. Just before the school was to close she called us in. We tried to explain but to deaf ears. Finally – she said – Get an apology published tomorrow, then only I can excuse you.
It was a tough task but at least a ray of hope. Apni sari Ijjat to dhul chuki thi, ab school main bane to rahen.
I knew TOI won’t do it. We managed an apology and I took my father’s help to get it published as a news in HT the other day. Bachi hui ijjat to bacha liya.

You can understand our position--- embarrassed --- we felt like crying.
  Aditya Sinha

“The Iron Lady” - A tribute to my Grand Mother

“The Iron Lady” - A tribute to my Grand Mother
Today when we are talking of our mothers and penning praises about the relationship and her acts, I am reminded of my Grandmother - whom I revered as the “Iron Lady”. Let me just have the opportunity to pay a humble tribute to her by briefing some of the odds that she fought to give life to her progeny.
They had come to Patna in 1942. My Grandfather used to narrate proudly whenever I asked him about circumstances leading to settle here.
“We had come to Patna. I had left Janaki in a dharma shala near the station to finish some work. On return I found her waiting on the footpath with the luggage, taking lunch from the tiffin-box along with my sons and a gutter flowing just behind. It felt me so bad that I finalized this piece of land the same day.” He would say recounting his memories. He was an inspector during the British rule and was transferred to Patna in 1942. The freedom bug had taken its control. His attitude towards fellow Indians had aroused the wrath of the Britishers and left him with no choice but to take compulsory retirement. Janaki Devi, my Grand ma from there took the charge and brought up her eight – sons (seven own and one step) and one daughter.  Herself a daughter of land lord and an Inspector in the British Soldier, she had never known hardship. Leave aside working; she had traveled only in Palki’s from her village escorted by barahils.  But situation made her strong and she turned into an Iron Lady.
From here the role got reversed. My grand father took charge of the kids and she managed a social worker assignment in the railways. She would toil her 8 hrs on the platform in the ticketing room to have the liquid money for the kid’s studies. With my grandfather’s pension that would serve the basic purpose.
She had enough of Agriculture land from her father. She actively took control of it. She would travel to her village which had no other way but to cover 6 kms on foot. She would do this at least once a week to ensure the work on the fields and take control of produce. I remember - when the paddy used to be ready she used to stay there and bring load full of 2 to 3 bullock carts at one time. She used to cover those dreaded naxalite belt village in night - all alone with a lantern hung in front to show the way. No one dared to say a word. In fact when our parents or we visited the village she would arrange for escort or advise to leave the village before dark. Those villages are still so dreaded that even today if we visit – we do that in the day light only. (The six inch small formula was from those villages). She knew that agriculture was backbone for her family and increased it slowly. When she left it for her sons in 1985 it was enough to give food grains for the families of her eight sons (23 grand children and today more than 100 great grand children). We still have our rice and wheat from that land (though now it has been divided among our parents).
She tried and reared all for her family. She expanded the house big enough to give all her son’s at least one room. But I still remember she would sleep only in the verandah – all through the four seasons. We would press her to her room in the winters which she would accept very reluctantly.
It was pity – as it happens with all families – as her sons got married the family feuds started cropping. I remember my uncles fighting on trivial matters and she would just sit in her verandah not talking to any of them for weeks but never got angry with her grand children. We remained listening stories with her. I was a darling grand son to her. I used to sleep with her.
When the marriage of her eldest grand son got fixed, her ecstasy had no bounds. But there was some facts hidden during the settlement. She came to know and went angry. She left the house but allowed the marriage to take place from her own house. She tried to turn stone. But I know – she saw the whole marriage and her grand son in Groom’s suit… hiding from behind the trees. She wanted every one to enjoy and be happy, but she didn’t want to compromise on her ideals. She never liked lies. Forgiveness was her ornament. Within a week, the moment the new bride paid regards, she lost her anger.  
She was modern in her approach. She had liked my mother – a cousin of my eldest aunt and had asked for her hand for my father when she was just 15 and in school. But she didn’t crush her in family rituals instead became a true mother. She allowed her complete the studies up to PG level and go for job, at the same time took care of us.  
She knew to fight for her rights as well. In early eighties when her social work job was being abolished from railways, she had the courage to go to Delhi and meet the then PM Mrs. Indra Gandhi and follow her case. We would not even think of it now.
Her obsession in her last years was TV. A staunch fan of Dada Muni – she would not miss the chitrahaars, the Sunday movies, Ramayan & Humlog on DD.  Even if our exams would be around, she would manage to persuade and we would be required to move to the other floors.
Thus was she – “An Iron Lady” – with strong will power, soft at heart – predicting the reverse. - A love for her progeny, ready to sacrifice. Verbose but compassionate. A self made lady – never ready to take help. 
Even when she died in 85, the attack was so strong that we didn’t even get time to think. I saw her vexing sons crying clinging to each other. I always say: even when she died – she united her son’s. She was always there to give something.

Aditya Sinha 

Originally poisted on Sulekha as a tribute to womenhood :The Iron Lady - A tribute to my Grand Mother 

Confession Of A Generation

Confession of a Generation

The beast opened its eyes. It had been a hundred years since he was stoned. Today was the appointed day. It fluttered its wings and took a round. The city appeared a lot different. The vegetation vasts had given way to concrete clusters. He had to judge his own experience of the whole day, he remembered. He can’t go down and move in the city like this.
He transformed himself. A tall strongly built hunk. He removed his wings and the chimneyed horns.
Contended with his looks, assured, he can now challenge any handsome as one of the most sought for bachelor, he jumped on the road to start his journey, a quest for eternity. For if he is convinced with the development over the years, he’ll get a life to share with all – out from the stone. He moved expectantly, jubilant.
The road seemed familiar. There is the big olive garden and the grape vine only a little far away, he thought. He wanted to start the day with a feast on fresh grapes.
He hurried his steps. A left turn and then a right and then left again. But green was never to appear - neither on the road-side en-route nor as an orchard aloof.
“Instead what’s this?”
- Clustered dwellings, towering overhead, piercing horizon and shielding the warmth that candidly came from Lord. He was better seated on the roof top over there under the serene abode of the divinity. At least he enjoyed his blessings uninterrupted, he thought.
He moved in search of the row of houses, with the huge groved front gardens and the vined green backyards. He might get something fresh over there. His quest to quench continued till he sensed some sweet aroma round the corner. He increased his pace. There was no green in the view. Instead, it came from a colourful edifice at the end. He entered the huge hall. It was crammed and decked, youthful and rejoicing. He followed the aroma towards the back. None seem to be bothered. There in the corner sat some future-in-making, lost in themselves.
“What are you up to”?
“We are feasting?
“I want something fresh”.
“Try this”. One of the youth passed to him a lighted cigarette.
It appeared something familiar to him of his ages. He tried a fag. “Fascinating”! He said. “But you are too young for these”.
“Oh man! We have better”. You would feel at the seventh heaven. He passed some powder to be put in the cigarette and a syringe to him.
“I am not ill. I don’t want this syringe”.
“It would give you pleasure”. And the guy helped him inject the pleasure liquid.
He felt his head go tossing, his mind swirled uncontrolled. He lay there feeling in the seventh heaven. (drugs having the control)
Suddenly, there was a jostle. All the future-in-making tried running helter and shelter. He tried too. But none had the strength to stand on his own feet. He too fell down. He was bundled in the van waiting outside.
“Stay here till your parents come for the rescue”. He was pushed in the cell along with the others.   
One by one Parents came to rescue their children. The future was waiting for the past to come and help their present, he thought. He’ll have to help himself. He pleaded the cops to leave him as he had no one of his own. 
The cops felt pity. They gave him some good scold and left him. He came out.
The Sun was down. He had lost the day. In the far he could see a large campus with only oldies. Hoping to get some good experience he hurried towards them. His head still tossed and the belly churned.
There were hordes of them. All in their grey years, tranquilly clad. Sitting alone or sharing silence with others. The eyes fixed on the gate – dry and hollow. Perhaps with an everlasting wait. The heart - longing. In the center, under a large Banyan tree lay a small stool, decked. A white cake as truce as the faces of these past kept on it. Atop of it – written in blood red was “Happy 100th B’day”. And there stood that b’day baby – all alone. None of the “present” whom he developed into lusturous “future” were in the reckoning. Only surrounded by written off pasts like himself.  
He resembles me, he thought and moved forward towards the old man. He helped him pick the knife and cut the cake. The others surrounding wished him happiness. None wanted any long-life. All shared the cake and diffused.
The old man still stood there. His eyes were dry. -The ears yet yearning to hear the chores from his children. - His arms waiting to hold the strong hands. - His heart longing for a love. - Some pride some belongingness. The wishes appeared gory.   
It was dark. He knew it was time to return to its being. The Gargoyle was waiting for him.
The world is no more a better place to live, He thought. The past has lost respect. The present has no control. And the future is endangered. How can this world continue? He couldn’t choose to be alive for ever. He would be required to return to the stone and wait for another hundred years. True to his inner self, he transformed to his self. The horns on the head, the wings awaiting flutter.
Aditya Sinha

(Originally posted on Sulekha in response to EYC 61 :confession of a generation )

It Stood to serve with Love

It Stood to serve with Love

The gate screeched open. Warm air laden with aroma of heated dust gushed out. As if it welcomed him with both arms. The screech, perhaps - a longing ache. Every corner of the house, its belongings, the neighborhood, the atmosphere – all appeared to be in its place telling stories of their own. Ravi entered his ancestral house holding the hand of his girl-friend, pointing to every nook and recounting proud memories associated with them.  
“This is the gate, - you know! I had such short temper. One day when a road-side Romeo passed comment on my sisters standing in the balcony, I had hit him with this and left him bleeding.” He told Radhika, clearly leaving a proud proof of his manhood.
“And what happened to the guy after that?” She tried cajoling.
“Nothing, he left for his house and never dared to repeat his act.”
Really! I thought there would have been group scuffle or regular quarrels after that. She appeared disappointed as if nothing exciting happened.
Quarrel! He was reminded of his neighbour – Sambhu.
“Sambhu Chacha aur unki amma (mother) – the neighbours always running with baton towards us,” he broke almost instantaneously.
“What happened” She asked.
“Nothing specific, they would take away the cricket balls or start scolding when we played around or chattered. They never seemed to be happy with us children.”
“And the worst would come around this time (summer) when the Mango tree was fully laden and we had hell lot of time with our vacations on.” He continued.
“What did u all do?”
“We enjoyed – what the kids of today would have? No comparison, dear!”
“The whole summer – we would just sit in verandah, playing or plucking mangoes.”
“Didn’t your parents intervene?”
“They did, but also enjoyed, when they came to know our methods of stealing the mangoes.” Ravi said with proud.
“Our season would start from around 14th April,  with local festival Satuani where Sattu is eaten with raw mangoes (tikola). And – those tikola came from Sambhu’s Mango tree.” 
“Why? Wasn’t it available in the market?”
“It was, but scarcely, around this time and so costly.” We thus managed our own lots – stolen or gathered.
“How did you all manage?” Mangoes when stolen from others garden always smelt sweeter and tasted more sour” she knew.
“I told you, it used to start with stone pelting”. We targeted small bunches leaning on the road and with our brothers waiting there to collect those and run.”
“And what about amma” .
“The moment she would here the sound of the stone piercing the mango leaves, her “abuse chalisa” would start – and all of us ran taking shelters behind whichever wall came in the way.”
“Once the tikolas grew a little bigger, we used laghis (a cloth sack tied to a long bamboo stick). It avoided them falling on the ground and injuring themselves. We were also saved from jumping over the wall to collect tikolas in presence of Amma guarding.”
“And I was a pioneer in trapping mangoes through laghi”, he added proudly.
He could feel himself holding one end of the laghi standing behind the verandah. His eyes would wait for his brother’s approval to start his indigenous work. Once his brother would finish his surveillance and assure of no one around and amma not peeping through the window, he would aim the laghi and prod it further to the pre targeted Mango. It would be clean enough avoiding even the leaves to produce hiss. The laghi would reach the target. The twig at the front would hold it from the neck and the sack would wait to catch. A small twist, a snap and the green gem would land safely in the pouch, estranged from its mother. He would then hurriedly pull the stick back and the “aam” would be theirs“Khaas”. It would be handed over to the sisters to keep them safe till they had one for each. It would only stop when parents got disturbed by amma’s abuse chalisa, the moment one of us failed in our duty.
He narrated his mastered modus operandi proudly. Holding hands they moved towards the back. He wanted to show the grand old mango tree to her -the sole center of attraction for the whole brigade during their long holidays.
“We even knew which branch held how many mangoes. And we planned when to pluck which one. The ones on the road side were first in target.” He started telling about his planning. He knew he was a connoisseur in this, too. After all he had an unparalleled experience. He knew it could not be taught in any management school. Then the ones at the peripheries were plucked when still green. The ones at the center or towards top were left to grow ripe. It was huge tree and its produce enormous too. He had pride for himself and the tree.   
He continued towards the back, after all he wanted to show tree in full load in the season to her. He wanted her to know – how playful his days were and how mighty the tree was. 
He opened the back-door and pointed – “there it stands!”
There stood a huge tree with its trunk spread on all sides, as if an old man standing alone trying to gather all. But there were no leaves, no manjiri (buds), no mango to adorn. It stood there all alone, empty. He stood there, shocked.
This! She exclaimed, “ it’s bare and dead”.
“How this could have bore so many mangoes?” She remarked in disbelief.
Ravi had no words. He could never had thought, such a magnanimous mango tree, which bore innumerous mangoes year after year can go dry. He moved towards the partition wall. Kids were playing there in the heat. Amma was sitting in the corner on her charpai. She had no reasons to shout now.
They jumped over the wall and moved towards her. Amma Kaisi ho (How are you Amma)?
She held her head up slowly and tried to recognize. Ke, Ravi? (Who Ravi), she spoke feebly.
Haan Amma. Yee Aam ke per ke ka ho ge layi (What happened to this Mango tree)?
Jab se tu gele, koi aam tore wala na rahlai. Aura am howel band ho gayil. (It stopped giving mangoes since you all went as there was no one to pluck the mangoes).
Shayad eka doston ke bichuran ke dukh lag gelayi.” (Perhaps it got shocked of losing its friends). She continued. The melancholy showed in her voice.
Tears tickled from his eyes. There was a churn in his stomach, emptiness in heart. Even trees feel the loss. They used to serve us – and that was its way to share the love. He thought. His clasp to his friend grew stronger. A reassurance he needed.

Aditya Sinha

(Originally published in response to EYC 60 on Sulekha and stood the runner up story :It s tood to serve with love  )



Pilgrim to Paradise

Pilgrim to Paradise
Vaishno Devi is a much sought for visit by most devotees. And so is the dream to enjoy the beauty of theParadise on Earth – Kashmir. We can always plan the two together. A much easier route is readily available to accomplish one’s dream with a little advance planning from the pilgrim base. All we need is a week’s time for these everlasting memories to become part of your life for ever.
Katra, the base from where you start your journey for Mata’s Darshan now forms the hub for onward tourism to Srinagar and further north. All you need is to reach Katra which is well connected with bus and taxi, a half an hour journey from Jammu, the rail head. You check in one of the hotels which is flooded in the town. Once you check in and before you start your visit for Mata Darshan, just spend half an hour and finalize your onward journey to Kashmir with one of the tourist operators over there. Best way is to hire a full taxi for the entire trip (Katra – Patnitop – Srinagar – Gulmarg – Sonmarg – Pahalgam - Jammu). This needs a weeks time. They would also book the stay accordingly. Make your one night stay at Patnitop and the balance in a house boat at Srinagar.  
Once you return from Vaishno Devi Mandir have an over night rest at Katra and then the next day move to your first destination – Patnitop.
Patnitop : Just 80 kms from Katra, it would take around 3 hrs to reach to Patnitop. The spot got its name from Patan da Talab meaning Pond of Princess. It is believed that the princess used to take their bath here. It’s a thorough green patch on a hill top with beautiful consortiums. Make your arrangements to stay here.
Take an excursion to Nathatop about 18 kms uphill from here. You would be lucky to see Snow Caped Peaks from here. Don’t miss to see the Nag temple,
SrinagarThe next day start your journey further. Leave Patnitop early in the morning for Sri Nagar. A picturesque view and enticing journey of 5 to 6 hrs. Check in one of the House Boats (already booked through Katra) planked in Dal Lake. A small rest after launch and the rest of the day spend in the city visiting the parks – Mughal Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh,
Kashmir valley field covered with snow
The must – a cruise in Shikara on the Dal Lake and explore Srinagar in its varied hues. The shikara ride would uncover the true essence of this town as you glide past willow-shaded channels and canals, through water lilies and lotus, under bridges, across rice fields, on to the splendid Mughal gardens, handicraft shops spread along the lake. Visit the other gardens - Nishat bagh, Shalimar Bagh, Hazratbal Shrine and the Shankaracharya temple of Bhole Nath.
Shalimar Bagh
Gulmarg: The next day move to the snow capped Golf Course and Skiing base – Gulmarg. A three hour drive of the 56 km distance would never appear tiring due to the refreshing splendor of the nature. On the way collect Jackets and Gum boots to walk on ice available on rent.
The hill offers the best skiing slopes in the world. Enjoy the skiing and the sledge ride.  Don’t forget to have the Gondola Ride (cable car) from Gulmarg to Khianmarg. After enriching with unforgettable memories return to Srinagar to spend a romantic night in the house boat.
The next day can again be local sight seeing or an excursion to Sonmarg.
Sonmarg: Sonmarg (2690 m.), the gateway to Laddakh offers the most beautiful drive from Srinagar. A distance of 88 kms with turns and twists paralleled with spruce, pines and willows. Enjoy the horse ride to Thajiwas glacier flooded with snow sledges.
Pahalgam: Pahalgam(2440m.), around 96 kms from Srinagar offers rarest Saffron fields, a view of Anantnag, Sulphur springs and the roaring rivers. It is a quaint little village sitting on the banks of river Lidde untouched by urban development.  Pahalgam is an angler's paradise, promising to please even an amateur with a rainbow trout. The thick pine and cedar forests around this hill town provides a natural habitat for the large brown bear. It has a golf course at 2400 metres above sea level. For adventure-seekers, camping equipment, ponies and skiing equipment are easily available. Kolahoi is a popular destination for trekkers via Aru, a fascinating meadow. Pahalgam is also the base camp for pilgrims proceeding to the shrine of Lord Shiva at Amarnath. Enjoy and return to your house boat by evening to rejuvenate.
Next day start your journey back to Jammu. Take notice of the small markets in Qazigunda and the Jawahar tunnel, the pass that offers life to the valley. By the evening you would be in Jammu to get to your train and have eternal memories with you to share with your friends throughout your life.
Seasons to visit : The valley offers two different seasons to visit and thus two distinct shades of valley to enjoy. Spring in April to November is full of flowers in different hue. The valley blooms and has vibrant colours. The trees are adorned and juvenile. The winter December to February on the other hand covers the valley with white snow sheet. Its serene all the way. Chilling weather and snow peaks for winter sports. Thus enjoy the paradise as you feel.

Aditya Sinha

A travelogue originally posted on Sulekha about five years back : http://travel.sulekha.com/pilgrim-to-paradise_travelogue_3904

A different Sun shines across the Jawahar Tunnel

A different Sun shines across the Jawahar Tunnel
“If there is paradise on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here”.
We had heard this about the valley since childhood. I had mustered courage to visit the place of my fancied subdued dreams. (Under disguise to fulfill my family’s wish…) (the untold truth) I had tried and made bookings of everything that was in Kashmir as per my dreams developed through bollywood oldies. We had hired taxi from Katra and reached Srinagar to stay in a house boat in Dal Lake.

                                                  house boat
(House Boat in Dal Lake)
A row of houses built on big boats planked on the bank appeared. The driver stopped the car on one side and went down to one of such boats and knocked. An old man wearing the long overcoat – “phiran” came out and spoke something in dogri – a confirmation, I could gather through the face movement.
He came straight to us and greeted in Hindi with a broad smile. A beautifully decorated living room followed by well wall to wall woodworked bedroom.
We settled down. But soon the chill of the city started taking its toll. Apoorva, my son, started shivering. Richa, my better half, too pulled out coats and shawls. Before we could think any further – a lady in bright Kashmiri dress came in with hot water bag and Kangri, as if they knew that we were waiting for it.
She asked for menu of food.
The whole family seemed to be pressed in the service. (a true hospitality)
We were lost in the paradise. To add to it, the snow started falling. The glass window offered a magnificent viewing - the flakes of ice falling. Our first encounter with snowfall was a dream, come true. We walked out to the edge of the boat to feel the same, but could not stay for more than 2 mins. It was really chilling. I wondered how Kapoors used to dance in this. We rushed in and it took hours for our blood to move in veins again.
We got up early the next day and stepped out. The whole area was painted white. We couldn’t waste time sitting in house boat – so our first destination for today – Gulmarg. We moved out.
The car moved through the lanes. We could see only two groups along the road engrossed in their own discussions all along. Either the military or the residents draped in the long robe with a protruding belly. On tracking further carefully I could see more army men positioned strategically. A mysterious hush enveloped the city movement.
Apoorva wanted to have some chocolates.
I asked the driver to stop.
“Nahin Shab, Yahan pata nahin lagta kaun sahi hai kaum galat”. We would stop only were all tourists are stopping. ( I could hardly see any)
I looked at Richa. My doubts were seconded. Every group now appeared poking there eyes on us, suspicious & interrogating. The protruding of Phiran on the belly raised a thousand questions in our mind – (though it was mainly due to the Kangri which they kept to keep themselves warm). The atmosphere appeared morose, the bliss subdued.
We kept mum looking at each other. Our hand clasped each other’s. We made Apoorva sit in between us. Ecstasy gone …….  
(The Naked Truth. For a tourist the paradise is lost)
We moved silently to our destination. Stopped were others rested, ate were others camped, till we reached Gulmarg.
The place told for itself again.
A white sheet covered all, so soothing, so pure, so enlightening.

We forgot all and rushed towards the calling.
We walked on the ski, played with the snow, adorned the sledge and …..
The snow was warm, the aroma lucid. The sloping edge, the piercing leaves… all appeared pure and livid. We enjoyed the Strawberry field, the Shikara in Dal Lake, the handicraft shops along the lake, the beauty in Jawahar Park. It was really a paradise … it seemed. (An Eternal Truth .. Kashmir IS A scenic paradise and is ALWAYS inviting) but could not gain courage to stay in the house boat all alone now with the uncertain eyes around.
(The Shikaras in Dal Lake)
We shifted to hotel instead. At least we would be among the tourist, we solaced each other.
We felt safe and spent the next night in hotel room. But next day there was more to come. The TV said – the link to the valley is cut. It had snowed again the whole night. The road to Jawahar tunnel was blocked. Jawahar Tunnel, one of the longest tunnel-road in Asia, links Jammu to Kashmir Valley. This architectural marvel built at Banihal at a height of 2194 m and is 2825 m. long. This metal-road-tunnel through the heart of the mountain provided life to the valley and made possible to stay in touch with Srinagar even during winters – was blocked. And such blockades were san die.
All channels …. talked about this and only this. They had the breaking news. We stayed glued to the idiot box - hoping against hope the route would be cleared. Nothing appeared to excite us now. We talked to every taxi stopping at our hotel – if they had any better news. Nothing could be made out for certain. I could not stay any longer. Mobile had stopped working. No way to inform further….
Only solace - the sky was clear today. We decided to tackle the situation as per se en-route. We left the Paradise. Hardly had we left the city limit, saw barricades. Vehicles coming from the other side gave rays of hope. We waited - army and the “robed” gazing constantly adding to the discomfort. The wait would never end. It was 2.00 pm, I moved and enquired. Long queue of Cars and Trucks stood separately.
Cops tried to explain to us, “It would not be safe to go further. One of the two tunnels was still blocked. They are letting traffic from one side for a day. It would not be possible for us to go for two days as tomorrow happens to be normal day for incoming through the tunnel or till the other tunnel is opened”.
He gave the driver a good scold as if he was supposed to know all this as a routine event of this valley city.
We discussed again.
“There is a shorter route to Qazigunda (about 5 kms) from Jawahar Tunnel”, he said.
-“If we reach there and the route gets cleared we may get a chance to move out from tunnel today itself.” 
We had no other choice. I didn’t want to stay any further here. I wanted to reach the tunnel and stay near it, so that I could pass through as soon as it opened. All the euphoria of the Paradise was gone by now. The whole family was looking towards me as if I was a connoisseur to handle such situation. We moved through the link road. I had a sigh of relief seeing there were many others moving on this road - perhaps with the same idea. The car jumped and bumped. It was a road only to link, more of pot holes and grabbles than the pitch. By 5.00 pm Qazigunda approached and we passed by the small market. It was dusk, too. It seemed our fate was good. We continued moving. Hardly another km. and there was the long line again.
“May be a small jam”, my self-consoling thought.
But then some drivers appeared rushing in, shouting “wapas chalo” The police is coming.
- A bolt from the blue.
Some police vans were approaching, scolding the drivers to bring the tourist to this spot, knowing it would not be possible to pass through the tunnel today. We would be required to go back to Srinagar.
No point to ponder. 4 to 5 hrs and the link road, I was confused.
The driver turned the car and reached Qazigunda in flash. Advised to take a room here and spend the night as it would not be possible to reach to the city as it was dark.
But I was late in this, too. There were only a few shabby motels that too occupied. Families had been returning from the tunnel and taking the recourse here. I some how pleaded and managed to get one small room (8x8 with a charpai in it ) that too at an exorbitant 1000 bucks, above a restaurant. This opportuned us to avoid the choice of spending the chilling night in the car with all around people in long robes – belly protruding, talking in hush, gazing eyes, enquiring always. We put the cover around the three of us and slept. Our ears parked on the road to read the movement of the vehicles to start.
We got awake … there were sound of vehicles movement outside. The dark gave way and dawn approached. It was hardly 5:00. The driver was already waiting. We moved and reached again to a queue in waiting .The vehicles had started parking outside the tunnel since 5.00. But the tunnel opens only at 8.00, we came to know. This wait was bearable for us. We waited for the clock to strike 8:00. The sky was overcast. The valley still chilled.

(The inside of the Jawahar Tunnel)
The queue started moving and we entered the tunnel. In a few minutes we could see daylight across the tunnel. We crossed the tunnel.
(The world on the other side of Jawahar Tunnel)
A bright sun was spreading its warmth on the terrain outside. No overcast. No chill. A welcome sunshine it appeared. A different sun-shined across the Jawahar tunnel, I realized. A life flourished – with no long robe, no fearful eyes, no distrust heart or querying mind. (The humane paradise still needs to be established in the Scenic paradise.) (A wishful truth)

Aditya Sinha

Originally posted on My page on Sulekha about five years back :http://travel.sulekha.com/a-different-sun-shines-across-the-jawahar-tunnel_travelogue_3893