Reconnecting with Kashmir

img_7530Kashmir has changed. I was here last August and in a short amount of time I sense a noticeable difference. There’s more traffic, fewer stray dogs, and a little more pollution, which sucks. But the army presence has decreased significantly. When I first came it was everywhere. I haven’t run into riots or protests, which has made it easy on me to enjoy my time. I’m not used to just relaxing. In New York, I’m always doing something. Kashmir has made me more relaxed. I had a lot of anxiety leading up to this trip. As much as I love traveling and exploring, flying scares me. It’s weird. I get anxiety about getting anxiety. It gets worse when I know I’ll be doing it alone. But I think I’m slowly getting over it, learning to cope with it in different ways, like reminding myself that I’m still alive and nothing drastic is going to happen. As cheesy as it sounds, putting my hand over my heart, to see if it’s still working, helps too!

This morning I woke up to a semi-empty household. My dad went to work and I walked downstairs to the Yasmin cleaning the windows. Yasmin is the household help. Nura was gardening, as usual and Amir was preparing me breakfast. I’m still not used to telling him what to make me in the morning and being waited on. It feels weird. After breakfast, I sat in the garden reading “An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green. I recently finished his well-known book “The Fault in our Stars,” and it confounds me that I can’t see the movie in theatres. Kashmir doesn’t have a movie theatre. Even if it did, I think they’d show mostly Bollywood Movies. I’m also reminded that I’m missing out on the new season of “The Bachelorette,” and that I missed the “Miss USA” competition last night, all of these are guilty pleasures…judge me if you will.

So far I’ve enjoyed time spent with my dad. From him, I’m learning a lot about Kashmiri crafts, pashmina shawls, and rugs. I think I’ll put together a blog post about that, too. It might seem interesting to a lot of readers. I continue to meet family members and there are some, believe it or not, I had no idea were related to me. Yesterday, I went to a farmer’s market and a cookout that had a small, tight-knit group of people. Jyoti Karan Singh runs it twice a month. Mrs. Singh is actually a princess. She’s the granddaughter of Marahaja Hari Singh who ruled Kashmir until the partition in 1947. Funny thing is, I was talking to her a lot and I had no idea who she was. There was a film crew from Australia and England who were doing a documentary on textiles and shawls in Kashmir. They were interviewing her when she asked me to help with the microphone. Mrs. Singh asked me questions, like where I was from, how I was enjoying Kashmir, etc. She knew my father, not so surprisingly everyone did. They knew about our family, his showroom, or his paintings, which are displayed in many hotels and galleries. Everyone seems to know each other here. Everyday, I meet someone new who has either been dying to meet me, has seen me when I was a baby, or has heard about me. When I introduced myself to a lot of people at the cookout, many women asked if I was so and so’s granddaughter, from my mother’s side, too. It was crazy to think all these people knew my family and I was just meeting them. It made me feel at home in a way. I also introduced the young filmmakers to my dad who again knew a boatload about Kashmiri textiles. Their stay had been sponsored by a British lady and her husband who also knew my father and happened to be old neighbors of ours when we lived in New Delhi. I invited the whole lot over to my family house for tea, which everyone does a lot of in Kashmir.

Since I’ve gotten here I’ve had about four cups of tea or ‘chai’ a day. There’s a Kashmiri tea called ‘Kahwa,’ which is amazing. I’m planning on bringing a lot of it back with me to the states. In Kashmir I’m learning how to relax and enjoy the little things. I rarely get WiFi and it’s taught me to go outside more. All of us, and our future generations need this. Yasmin has kids around my age who come over often and we go bike riding and play soccer in the yard. Amir is teaching me how to cook and Nura is teaching me how to garden. He is also engaging in some soccer, which is hilarious considering he’s about 80 years old, but he’s healthy and kicking. I bet he used to be quite the stud, back in the day. Next week, I’m hoping to travel to Pehalgam, interact with native Kashmiris to learn more about my culture, and enjoy a Shikara ride on the famous Dal Lake….

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