There's something about Kashmir that's irresistible. As the plane descended into Srinagar the snow capped peaks welcomed with open arms. The weather was pleasant in the afternoon. In fact it was slightly warm. I was comfortable in my T shirt. The journey from Airport to the hotel was dotted with remnants of the horrific floods. There's a strong presence of Army so you can't say everything is normal. An automatic-gun-weilding soldier was manning the traffic too.
The hotel is located in a lovely location surrounded by huge mountains, vast gardens, neatly manicured flower beds blessed with beautiful seasonal flowers. The food was simple yet delicious. It was served with a lot of warmth. Khahva had a pinch of Zaaffran and the aroma was very freshening. As I opened the tap, the cold water felt as if I've put my hands in a free flowing mountain stream.
In the evening I interviewed Jackky Bhagnani and Laurein, the stars of Vashu Bhagnani's 'Welcome 2 Karachi' on an open bus. It was fun to chat with them. The Shikara ride on the legendary Dal Lake was an awesome experience. It was here that I experienced a unique 'Online' shopping idea. Merchants approached us on their Shikaras and sold us their wares in a jovial manner. I bought something or the other from all of them. It was good stuff for sure but the intention was to help out the local Kashmiris who've been struck by terrorism and now the floods that has pushed them back considerably. The salesmen-merchants emphasised their 'Indian' credentials to Impress us. It was very obvious that more than any 'Azaadi' what they want the most is for opportunities for their businesses to flourish. And for that they desperately need Tourism to return to Kashmir in a big way. It is summer season, the paradise is blooming in full glory but the patrons of beauty are few and far in between.
We had dinner at Taj Hotel. Thankfully we got Wi fi there and were able to send our video footage. 3G connectivity is a problem. I was told that apart from the altitude, the security concern is the other reason for lack of 3G connectivity in Kashmir. I don't have any official confirmation on that though. After dinner I spent some time alone at the hotel garden observing a half lighted city. Wonderfully pleasant cold breeze caressed me. Extremely fresh and rejuvenating. All I can do is pray for this Jannat on earth and genuinely hope that the tourism gets revived in a big way. Good night!