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My best Kashmir memory

MY BEST KASHMIR memory remains a trip I undertook with friends in 1971, fresh from St Stephen’s College. And, like all college trips, it ended up being more than memorable, even though we set out with no itinerary so to speak.


The first step was to borrow my friend Shekhar Bhargava’s family car. So, we set off from Delhi to Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Once there, and with a set of wheels under us, we decided to pick up another friend and drove to Bhilwara, Rajasthan. Bhagwan Swaroop Mathur’s family owned a mica factory there, and the mineral itself was a revelation. To me until then, mica was those small glinting flakes that you see in granite pebbles. Anyway, with Bhagwan Swaroop roped in, we set off for Delhi and then to Kashmir.


The Americans talk about road trips, but we don’t, do we? Too many problems, from lack of restrooms on the route to safety issues to drivers who seem to be absolute nutcases to the condition of the roads themselves. But, I think, it is a culture thing above all.


Our trip was a meandering drive. Though we visited many popular tourist spots, what stayed with me was a day or two spent in Daksum valley in a small state government guest house by a babbling mountain brook. And then there was Amarnath, which happened by accident like everything else.


In Pahalgam market, we ran into another friend, Yogendra Durlabhji aka Yogi Jain from Jaipur, and quickly made plans to visit the holy cave. And so began the three-day round-trip via Sheshnag and Panchtarni. The first night we were sitting up all night in the freezing rain and snow, teeth chattering. Then came the altitude sickness, leaving us wondering why we bothered to set out at all. But the sight of the holy cave made it all worth it.


Sorry, I got carried away, but you have Senior Special Correspondent Tariq Bhat to blame for all of this. It is his Unseen Kashmir story in this issue that sent me down this route. My Daksum days are long gone, but I am grateful that I grabbed them when I could. Maybe, you, too, should set out to see Unseen Kashmir, dear reader.


Deputy Chief of Bureau Namrata Biji Ahuja’s lead article looks at how Kashmir has changed since the abrogation of Article 370, and also at the changemakers who are holding fort. My thanks to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha for the interview.


It is not all Kashmir though. Our Consultant (Sports) Ayaz Memon and Chief Subeditor Anirudh Madhavan interviewed hockey national coach Craig Fulton and captain Harmanpreet Singh. Memon also writes about his experience of covering cricket World Cups, ahead of the 2023 ICC World Cup. All three articles are sure to hook the sports buffs out there.


There is also Shobhaa De’s take on Dubai, a city she has been visiting for 40 years. This time she did it with her daughter and granddaughters. It is good to see Dubai through her eyes.


As I cap my pen, let me go stand by the brook in Daksum once more. Of the four of us, Shekhar is still active in legal practice and was the additional advocate general of Madhya Pradesh. Yogi is busy in Jaipur with the Durlabhji institutions. Bhagwan Swaroop has moved on to a better world.


Maybe he is waiting for us with ponies, blankets and flasks of tea, ready for another trek.