Remembering Seasons of Love, in Kashmir

Kashmir wasn’t always looked at through just the security prism.

Once upon a time, winter in Kashmir was a tranquil, reflective, and peaceful time. European and American tourists would flock to the Valley in droves. Back then, we didn’t see very many domestic tourists in winter.

The magnificent snow-clad mountains that ensconced the Valley, and our ski-resort, Gulmarg, with its beautifully upholstered chalets provided an inimitable haven to skiing enthusiasts.

Smoke from the chimneys of chalets with the shingled roofs of Hotel Highlands Park would create a languid atmosphere.

I have vivid memories of Uncle Benjii, my maternal grandmother’s impeccably dressed younger brother, walking around the lounge of his hotel and exchanging pleasantries his multicultural clientele.

Coffee table books and board games would be scattered all over the lounge. Tired skiers would gather around wood burning stoves to keep themselves warm.

The Kashmiri staff would be smartly dressed, well-spoken, and efficiently cater to their guests from halfway across the world. One could hear smatterings of English, German, French, and Italian everywhere. Back then, even our pony wallahs and shikara wallah spoke fluent English because of their exposure to European tourists.

In the distance, one could hear Christmas carolers singing “Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth and mercy mild.” The church in Gulmarg, which was built in the early twentieth century, was abuzz with excitement that time of year

My maternal grandmother’s grandfather, Michael Adam Nedou, and his heirs built the Nedous’ Hotel in Gulmarg, Kashmir, in 1888. The hotel in Gulmarg sits on an elevation, overlooking the once luxuriantly lush meadow, with its cornucopia of fragrant, beauteous, and flourishing flowers.

The riot of colors in Gulmarg in the summer has always had the power to revive my spirits! The cozy cottages around the main lounge, furnished with chintz drapes, chintz covered armchairs, soothing pastel counterpanes on the canopy beds, and hewn logs around the fire places would warm the cockles of any anglophile’s heart.

Alas, that is the Kashmir that my daughter’s generation didn’t have the good fortune of seeing.

NOTE: Note: Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, a native of Kashmir, regularly writes essays for publications around the world, including CapitolBeatOK and The City Sentinel newspaper in Oklahoma City. She is a professor at Rose State College in Midwest City and the University of Oklahoma in Norman. This article is adapted from a recent post she placed on the Internet.