I am Chirag Kataria, an IT Professional, from New Delhi. I hereby want to share about my experience of visiting Kashmir Valley.
I first visited Kashmir in Aug 2010. Earlier, I had a really bad perception of Kashmir and Kashmiri people. This perception was mainly due to the media which always showed the negative side of Kashmir. I was nervous to go but I took a chance and went there with my friends.
When I landed in Kashmir, I was amazed to see the places all around and on interacting with locals, I felt awesome as the experience was extremely opposite to what I had thought. This was just the beginning of my journey.
Since 2010, I am visiting Kashmir Valley for almost once in a year and always had a pleasurable and unforgettable experience. People used to say that its Muslim community might not welcome Hindus but that is totally incorrect as in the past 7 years, I have seen true Kashmiriyat.
In 2015, we were returning by the Baramulla highway as we had to go to Pahalgam and it was around 6 pm that we suddenly saw some protests going on. I was scared but to my surprise, some locals came to our vehicle and asked us to come out. In contrary to what I thought, they asked us to stay there till the time the protests are over. They took us to their home and asked us to stay there for the night and leave early morning. They even arranged food for us. We were taken aback by this hospitality and felt extremely happy with the over whelming welcome we received and true Kashmiriyat.
Before going to Kashmir I was told by everyone that you should not interact with locals as they are not helpful and will cheat you in some way or the other. I WANT TO TELL EVERYBODY IN THIS WORLD THAT TRUE KASHMIRI WILL NEVER CHEAT YOU IN KASHMIR, INFACT THEY WILL HELP YOU. They treat everyone as equal and ensure that visitors DO NOT get hurt by anyways. With over 7 years of travelling to Kashmir, I now have many friends from different places in Kashmir (Srinagar, Batmaalu, Baramulla, Downtown, Ganderbal, Gangbal, etc.) and I am loving to learn Kashmiri language as well.
Recently, when cloud burst occurred in Ganderbal Dist. where many pilgrims of Amarnath Yatra were drifted away, it was the locals who jumped into the river and saved lives of many pilgrims. There are many people who says that Kashmir is only about Muslim population and Hindu’s can’t live…etc..etc..I want to tell everybody that Sikh’s and Hindu’s community do exist in Kashmir.
I always feel that Kashmir is undoubtedly an amazing place but it gives me pain to know the fact that I can’t stay there for life-long because of the politics. I will never forget about the several wonderful instances I had in Kashmir. It also gives me pain to see whatever is going on in the valley. I can’t stop my tears when I see some fear in the kids’ eyes, people looking for their relatives and their whereabouts is unknown. I pray to God to give the same happiness back to Kashmir and their people which they used to have, give them the rights to live life in freedom. I am always delighted to interact with locals and know about their up’s and down’s in life. I have many more wonderful experiences and because of which I have chosen to spend some time every year in Kashmir. I pray to God to return the happiness and freedom to live at this place. I urge people to NOT make perceptions or comment bad about Kashmir or locals. Be on the ground and watch it yourself. I am sure you will have an amazing experience and will never want to leave that place. I will be up there soon and will definitely enjoy Nature’s beauty and Kashmiriyat.