Kashmir, a region made famous by Led Zepplin (despite the fact the song has nothing to do with the area), beautiful carpets, and the ongoing complications between India and Pakistan. In fact Bill Clinton once stated during his presidency that Kashmir was “the most dangerous place on Earth”.
For some reason the area called out to me, and after some research and inquiries with some locals I decided that it was actually quite safe to visit. As I landed in the airport I was welcomed by tight security, and a long extensive visitor form. As I got in the car and headed to my houseboat, I saw nothing but barbed wire, dusty streets, and a plethora of Indian soldiers. The predominantly Muslim region bore more of a resemblance to the middle east than India. I was quite surprised as the Kashmir Valley is often described as “paradise on earth”.
We have all heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. However, how often do we heed this advice?
I arrived at the houseboat and was in awe. The houseboat sat on the edge of a tranquil lake with the start of the Great Himalaya range in the backdrop. My hosts were a beautiful Muslim family who exuded warmth and a sense of home. That was a very welcome feeling coming from the oppressive heat and the non stop touts of Delhi.
I chose to dive into Kashmir head first. My 6 days in Kashmir consisted of shakara (boat taxi) rides to the floating gardens, sensational meals with the family, fly fishing, horseback riding, and the most delicious tea I have ever sampled in my life.
What I found as I dove further into the culture were beautiful, polite, and peaceful people. Quite a different picture than the one painted by the media. I have been many places in the world, however Kashmir might be one of the most interesting places I have visited yet.
How many times are we turned off in life by hearsay, bad press, or a rough exterior? I know that I have been guilty numerous times. Isn’t it funny how once you get past everything on the exterior you find real beauty? Sometimes the stakes are high, and you have to reach deep inside to obtain the courage necessary to take the plunge. However, I am a firm believer of the fact that you always will get out what you put in.
Next time you find yourself having the urge to overlook someone, something, or someplace; take a step back it give him/her or it a chance. You never know if you have a diamond in the rough right in front of your face.