Kashmir Diary

My family and I used to take a summer break almost every year when we were kids. The frequency reduced as we grew older. Postponed exams were usually the culprit in my Engineering days. My parents and I made a few trips after both my brothers got married. Our last trip together was to Europe in 2018. This year, my nephew, Naman is heading out to the US to do his undergraduate study. We thought it might be nice to do a family trip somewhere. 

We looked up a few places. The summer months dictated that it had to be a cool place. I had to also make sure there were good Dialysis Centres, preferably run by NephroPlus. Srinagar checked all the boxes nicely. Last we had been there in 1988, a good 34 years ago. About a month back, my brother and I booked the flights and hotels. We were all set!

A Houseboat for the Shahs

A stay at Srinagar feels incomplete without at least one night on a houseboat. About a thousand such houseboats, consisting of a few bedrooms, a living and dining room and a nice cozy portico adorn the famous Dal Lake. There are a few more in the less famous cousin of the Dal - the Nigeen Lake. Our dwelling for the first night of our trip was one such houseboat. You need a Shikara (a small boat) to take you to and from the houseboat.

We ventured out after checking in on a shikara that evening across the Dal Lake and were approached, at multiple places by other boats selling myriad Kashmiri wares ranging from hookahs to earrings to tea-coasters to fruit bowls. There was also a floating restaurant serving Maggi noodles among a host of other snacks and drinks. With only the noise of the oars hitting the water, the peace was like a balm for aching souls.

Local Sights

There are several local sightseeing spots in Srinagar depending on your taste. The most famous of these are the four Mughal gardens - Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Cheshmeshahi and the Pari Mahal. We visited two of these and while they were very beautiful, I believe they could do with some better maintenance. The Cheshmeshahi had a spring that was very clean and refreshing. Legend has it that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had this water piped to his home in Delhi!

We also visited the Hazratbal shrine, which is believed to house strands of the hair of the Prophet Muhammad and was the scene of an ugly confrontation between terrorists and the Indian army in the early 90s.


Doodhpathri (meaning 'Valley of Milk') is a tourist destination that has not yet become as famous as some of the other spots close to Srinagar. About a couple of hours by car from Srinagar, it has some lush green, idyllic meadows, where you can see sheep grazing blissfully unaware of the happenings around them. The place boasts of a stunning river, Shaliganga, which you can get to on ponies. On our way back from the river, we were hit by rain and hail. My hands literally froze as I held on to the handle atop the pony as he adroitly made his way through the resultant slush. Three hours of exhilarating fun!


Its name meaning 'Village of Shepherds', Pahalgam was the high point of our trip. On the way there, we stopped and enjoyed White Water Rafting down the Liddar River. We did yet another pony ride in something called 'Betaab Valley' (since the film 'Betaab' was shot there - <cringe>). The place, despite the name had some stunning views.

Our hotel, The Pahalgam Hotel, incidentally the same place we had stayed during our 1988 trip, was a beauty. Lovely food, comfortable rooms, breathtaking views.

Kashmiri Food and Kehwa

Being vegetarians, our food options were limited. The Lotus Stem (Nadru in Kashmiri) made quite a few appearances on our plate. I was also intrigued by the Alu Bukhara curry, made out of whole apricots, which I sampled at lunch one day. 

The Kashmiri Dotche was a simple, thick flatbread, delicious for bread aficionados like me. 

What took the cake on the food front though was the Kehwa, a mix of green tea with saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, almonds and occasionally rose petals. Served with honey, I downed endless cups of Kehwa during the trip. Most restaurants or snack / tea stalls always had their Samovar ready, pouring out cup after cup of this delicious tea to warm the insides of patrons clamouring for more.


I got two nocturnal dialysis sessions during my 5-night trip. Both these sessions were at NephroPlus, Umarabad, Srinagar centre. The technician there was brilliant and very accommodating. Both sessions happened without any hitch. The beauty of getting nocturnal dialysis during a holiday is I don't need to restrict my fluid and diet which can be a huge killjoy. I am ever so grateful for access to nocturnal dialysis on this trip.

Political Situation

Truth be told, we were a little apprehensive about visiting Kashmir. A lot of water has flown down the Jhelum these past 34 years since we last visited. While my teammates there assured me it was all ok, every report in the press of some violence in the valley would make me jittery.

The reality on the ground was a pleasant surprise. If you ignored the massive presence of the military, life was as normal as you could get in any city. People were just going about their daily work. When I spoke to our cab driver, he explained that people were fed up of politics. The economy is heavily reliant on tourism and the locals realise this. This year saw record numbers of tourists. Our houseboat keeper said this was the first time they had seen such high numbers since the beginning of militancy in the 90s.

Our last day there brought the news that Yaseen Mallik, one of the leading separatists was sentenced to Life in Prison by a Delhi court. We were a little worried about getting to the airport. Our cab driver assured us nothing would happen. On the way we were relieved to see not even the slightest reaction to the news. People were going about their lives as usual.

It was heartening to see the valley completely normal and beginning to flourish. Fitting, given the beauty of the place. 

When the Persian poet, Amir Khusru visited Kashmir, he remarked:

"Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast."

English Translation:

"If there is a paradise on earth,

It is this, it is this, it is this”


Nisha said…
Awesome ..😯☺️

Aloka said…
Awesome experience. Thanks for sharing. This has been long on my Bucket list and am waiting to tick it off. Wish the pain of Kashmir and Kashmiris is wipes out forever!
Unknown said…
Buhat dinkebad apka blogg padha, buhat Khushi hui.

Ur big fan Syed Ziauddin from kingdom of saudi arabia.
Unknown said…
Super! You are such a role-model, Sir. Much respect and admiration.
Geeta Shyamsundar said…
Thank you Kamal it was so wonderful to read about your trip to Kashmir...I had always dreamt of seeing the Valley of Flowers in Kashmir but never could afford it.. I enjoyed reading and remembered all the films made there, the older ones..The time of dawn and sunset must have been amazingly beautiful.
Geeta Shyamsundar.(HPS)
Deepak patnaik said…