What a magical feeling it is, when you have a dream, you march in its pursuit and you see it becoming a reality. I doubt, if there is any man who would not have ever dreamt to see heaven and in next thought he would not have imagined of Kashmir. Every Indian would at sometime or the other, in his life would have wanted to visit Kashmir. The serene beauty of nature, the breath taking landscape, the humbleness of the people, sacred folklore and culture is beyond my capability to explain.

I will always thank my stars for that I was fortunate enough to see this marvelous work of God. It all began when I was onboard my flight at IGI airport, New Delhi. Soon after the flight took off, it was the same old urban jungle covered with dense smog, which I was pleased to leave, which  was followed by plains, unevenly spaced patches of fields, well drained by a sophisticated network of canals and rivers, yet it all looked mundane.

It was then; a chill ran down my spine. I popped up to the edge of my seat and moved as close as possible to the window to get the widest view of what just got hold of my sight. It looked as if the calm and plains of the earth had broken their silence and has started to rise up to meet the sky. The rises were sharp yet gradual. Before I could even absorb this beautiful sight into myself, this soothing picturesque began to glow. The sparkling snow covered mountain peaks at the skyline was spellbinding.

As the flight was approaching Srinagar, there was sudden change in geography, where the mountains tapered down to meet the plains literally forming a bowl which we call the Kashmir valley. Mesmerized with this sight, I turned to the passenger sitting next to me, who happened to be Kashmiri himself, and I said, “Isn’t it beautiful !”,to which he replied :-

“Gar firdaus Bar-rue Zamin ast, Hami asto, hamin asto, hamin asto”.

He smiled, turned away and began gathering his stuff for de-boarding.

The moment you set foot in the valley, you feel a different vibe altogether. The sun shines brighter, the air smells pure, the environment feels soother, or in other words, just heavenly. But I was taken aback when I saw an Air Force base right next to the airport and the security forces deployed nearby. Just out of curiosity, I turned to another localite and shared my thoughts with him. He nodded, smiled and said, “Yeh hamari hifazat ke liye hi toh hain, janab, achhe log hain yeh”. His innocent reply was really heart-touching. In this single sentence, he spoke volumes about the respect and gratitude the people hold for the security forces deployed here. In good and bad times, the Indian Army has always stood for the people of Kashmir.

With a mind-full of thoughts, I proceeded on my journey towards a town located in North Kashmir called Kupwara. And as they say, the journey is prettier than the destination itself; in this case it was difficult to say the same. My journey began with the splendid sights of Chinar trees, Dal Lake, Holy Shankracharya Temple, meandering Jhelum River, world famous Tulip garden and countless Almond trees decorating my way with their sweet fruits. As I made my way ahead passing through the blooming Apple orchards and admiring the unique architecture and the way of living of people, on the outskirts of Srinagar, at a road junction saw a road closure wherein few defense personnel were controlling the traffic and also making way for the military convoys to pass. I had never seen such a sight where, a number of civilian vehicles waited for the military convoys to pass, no honking, no panic, no agony rather waving their hands in respect, smiling and saluting soldiers as the convoys crossed them. The sight was indeed heartwarming, as I recalled what that man at the airport told me.

In a short while the road opened and I continued my move. I had heard that people of Kashmir have a great passion for cricket. I saw it for myself while crossing the town of Baramullah, where an Army camp had opened its gates and organized the game in which the local youth participated. Beyond all boundaries and differences, the Army and locals celebrated brotherhood and cherished the spirit of the game which is what I learned in my first few hours in the valley.

As the miles went by, the beautiful pine and deodar trees replaced the chinar ones, apple orchards replaced by step farmed paddy fields and colorful flowers all around. My journey was about to conclude as I reached the town of Kupwara. But what I had concluded from my journey was an entirely changed perception after seeing Kashmir for myself. The harmony which the military and civil population shares here is one of its kind. Both facilitating each other, supporting each other and sharing a smile was really something that meant heaven to me. With the grace of God, may Kashmir ever flourish.

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