Kashmir in the New Millennium

As symbols of normalcy go, the all-glass front of Pick n Choose on Residency Road, Srinagar, is as telling as any. Five years ago, you couldn’t find glass doors in Srinagar – they’d be a sitting duck for a terrorist’s bullet. Five years ago, you wouldn’t even have wanted the transparency of glass. Thick wooden…

What’s Cooking in Kashmir

Think about Kashmiri food and the first thing that comes to mind is the justly famous wazwan. However, try eating it for two consecutive meals and you’ll be laid up in bed for a week thereafter, so heavy is it. Indeed, most visitors to Kashmir have no difficulty finding the ristas and gushtabas of a…

Kashmir and the Mughal Connection

In 1598, Emperor Akbar annexed the Valley of Kashmir to the Mughal Empire. In one fell swoop, the Mughal emperors acquired a summer home. Kashmir in turn, acquired some of its most important heritage sites. Emperor Akbar’s contribution was limited to the wall around the hill of Hari Parbat, which still stands today, complete with…

Jodhpur, the Blue City

Jodhpur is either lush and verdant and green, or is part of the harsh, blinding desert. It all depends on your perspective. If you are coming from, say, Udaipur, then Jodhpur is shockingly bleak and harsh, and its pink-tinged sandstone fort looks like an outcrop of the stony desert. If, on the other hand you…

2008: The Year of the Rat

Exactly five years ago, I made my way to Hong Kong. It was my first trip to South East Asia and I was wide-eyed with wonder. The veritable forest of tall buildings, the neon brightness that threatened to outshine the sun, the sheer variety of Chinese food, from roadside dai pai dongs (street-side stalls) to…

The Mystique of Saffron in Kashmir

Kashmir is the only place In India and one of the few places in the world where saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, grows; to be more specific, it grows only on the plateau land of Pampore, just outside Srinagar. Saffron is not grown on any of the other fertile alluvial plateaus of Kashmir, and the people of Pampore…