Amid the conflict, the hospitality of random Kashmiris has touched hearts of many tourists who visit Kashmir. While many can be seen praising Kashmir in videos, one among them gave a vent to her feelings in the form of a poem “An Ode to Kashmir”. She has been visiting Kashmir despite “warnings” from acquaintances.
As many times she has visited Kashmir, some friends, relatives or associates discouraged the 28-year-old Jyoti Bharadwaj and her family from visiting Kashmir. “We were literally asked not to go to Lal Chowk, or connect with locals. We were told that we would be attacked. But I am thankful to my family that they never imposed such restrictions. We spoke to locals and visited places. It was so good. The shopkeepers still remember us. Such things count,” says Jyoti who believes, “even if something unfortunate happens in Kashmir, the repercussions are as true for a local as they are for a tourist.”
“I pray for peace and harmony in Kashmir. I have done the same in my poem. The conflict only leads to damages,” says Jyoti who along with her brother Dhruv Bharadwaj, on May 2, posted a video on YouTube, reciting the poem. She had written the poem and ‘it was meant to stay between the pages.’ However, Dhruv wanted her to tell the world about the love she had for Kashmir.
“We shot the video in Delhi. He asked me to recite the poem while he played the guitar. On May 1, we recorded it. This is a way of showing our love for Kashmiris,” says Jyoti.
“After listening to my poem, my friends have planned to visit Kashmir.”
In Dec 2017, she had been here. While she would stare at her diary earlier, after going back from Kashmir, she felt the urge to write something about it. The words she scribbled on her diary, out of love, took a rhythmic form, making it a poem.
“I would write earlier as well. But I had left doing it as I was preparing for examinations of a government job. One day, after coming back from Kashmir, I opened my diary. Since I love Kashmir beyond measure, I started writing about it. Eventually it converted into a poetic form,” says Jyoti. .
Jyoti, a government employee in Textiles Ministry, Delhi has been visiting Kashmir since 2014. The second time the Bharadwaj family visited the vale was, in 2015, was when certain incidents have strengthened her faith in Kashmiris.
After those times, Jyoti says, she always felt like coming back to the valley. “The last time we came, we didn’t come to visit the place. We came to see our Kashmiri friends,” she says.
Sharing a few anecdotes, she says, on her first trip, Jyoti had noticed Kashmiri girls covering their heads with Hijab. While she wished to wrap one around her head, a Kashmiri woman had approached her.
“I would feel like putting on Hijab. An aunt, with utmost love, told me that she will make me understand how to wear a Hijab. In front of us was a shop and she sent her daughter with me to buy Hijab Pins. I call her Baji Aunty. She lives in Barzulla, Srinagar. They are beautiful people,” says Jyoti adding, “Such gestures mean a lot.”
While talking to Free Press Kashmir, she was reminded of a Kashmiri man who had helped the family in odd times.
“Once, while coming back from Sonmarg, our vehicle’s tyre punctured twice. For the second time, we didn’t have a stepney. Near Cheerwan village, 45 kilometres away from Srinagar, we met Rasool Uncle. He told us the area wasn’t safe and let us sit in his car for 2 hours. He was ready to drop us to Srinagar,” says Jyoti who had noticed that Rasool Uncle was sick that day, however, he chose to help them.
The family has made Kashmiri friends who have become the reason for their visits now.
“We have also been to Sarvat Bhaiya’s place in Sonmarg. He had specially arranged everything for us. While we were leaving, he gave us a lot of Rajma from his field,” she laughingly recalls.
Moreover, she was touched by the way a Kashmiri entrepreneur Javid Parsa had welcomed her family at his fast food restaurant ‘Parsa’s’. She calls him her ‘Pir Baba’ (lucky charm) and had written a poem “To My Pir Baba” for him on her blog.
She plans to come back to Kashmir in winters and her message to people who spread hatred about Kashmir’ is: “Visit Kashmir on your own and you will fall in love with it. It is beautiful like its people.”
Here is the poem she has written in love of Kashmir.