14 June, 2021

Kashmir Diary

Pahalgam has always seemed to me the ­archetype of a one-horse town—a Hollywood studio of fake shop fronts transported to Himalayan heights.

Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Kashmir Diary
Roadblocks in Kashmir

There are three kinds of prevalent roadblocks that encapsulate old and new life in Kashmir. The first are troop movements in winding convoys that routinely hold up civilian life in the cities and the outskirts, so that getting out of Srinagar, for example, is a bit like timing the Delhi-Gurgaon commute. The traffic snarls can be humongous at peak periods. The second is the rush of tourist traffic—so huge that the relatively new airport can barely cope. Prominent among the holidaying hordes are platoons of those two intrepid tribes—Gujaratis and Bengalis—posing among the peonies in Kashmiri costume at the Shalimar or Pari Mahal gardens, or shrieking as their ponies break into a canter leaving a trail of faecal stink. They present a caricature of inter-generational families: the young women shout orders at ghodawallahs while sari-clad grannies bring up the rear, riding side-saddle like Victorian duennas.

The third...

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