My first visit to Srinagar was on 27th May, 1984. It was my honeymoon destination. We both promised ourselves to come back to Srinagar after a decade. It was truly mesmerising!
A honeymoon destination always has a special place in life. Over the years, the condition of J & K deteriorated and my plans of visiting again were almost dead. Though there are attractive tourist packages offered by the travel agencies in recent years, I was not ready to take the risk or travel with conditions.
On August 5, 2019 when the Government of India revoked Article 370 and 35A stripping J&K of special status, my hopes of revisiting Srinagar were ignited. The memories of that trip came alive.
On a hot afternoon in May (27th May 1984) , we boarded the train from New Delhi Railway Station for Jammu. We had a two berth coupe, all to our self, in first class compartment. The train reached Jammu station in the early hours of 28th . We were to board a flight to Srinagar the same afternoon and we didn’t have much time to explore the city. To our disappointment, the Railway retiring rooms at Jammu Station were all reserved but we somehow persuaded the staff to let us use the room to freshen up for a few hours before the guests checked in. The power of being a young newly married couple. 🙂 After freshening up, we kept our luggage of two huge suitcases in the cloak room and went out to visit the ancient Raghunath Temple of Jammu. Ancient and old buildings always invite me to visit them. They introduce us to the grit of human race along with the path of civilisation took by our earlier generations.
Finishing our trip well in time, we hired a cab and reached airport. It was an uneventful Indian Airlines flight that took us to Srinagar except for two waves of massive turbulences that hit our aircraft minutes immediatly after taking-off from Jammu.
We were stuck by the natural beauty of Srinagar as soon as we landed at airport and the drive from airport to city was very enjoyable. Our itinerary was meticulously planned. We had planned to stay in Srinagar for 4 days as a base and visit all the places of interest from there. We had not made any advance reservation in any hotel as we had decided to explore the hotels on our own and then settle for a good hotel in a quiet place with natural beauty. One of my husband’s office colleagues in the meanwhile had made arrangements for a day’s stay at a hotel in Residency road. The hotel was almost at the end of the Residency Road in a residential area. The room was very large with a huge restroom and a balcony that opened up on the street. We weren’t really happy with the location and soon went out to explore the city.
We found a very pleasant hotel with a big front lawn of lush green grass and abundant roses nearer to Regal Chowk area. We checked in to this hotel the same evening . This was to be our abode for five days. 🙂
Those were not the days of “Google” , “Tripadvisor” or “Ibibo” :), where you get all the informations about the hotels like these days complete with the look, location and facilities. The internet age people will not be able to understand the struggle of earlier travelers.
The next morning, we visited the Tourist Reception Centre and planned a detailed itinerary for the next four days with them. The officials were very helpful. One of them sat with us to know the purpose of our visit and our interests. He curated a very good personalised travel plan for us. The famed Dal lake and its legendary Shikara boats was the place we were immediately directed to by the Tourist Centre as the first must visit stops. The scenic beauty of the whole area with surrounding hills, Chinar trees, the pristine water and the Shikaras is so difficult to describe in words. We had an unforgettable time boating and soaking in all the beauty and serenity around us. Nishat bagh with its enchanting gardens and water channels was the next on our visit.
Next day, was devoted to Srinagar City Tour by the J&K Tourism luxury coach. It was a hectic trip and took us to all the major tourist spots, buildings of historical importance and ancient places of worship. The late evenings were always spent in our pleasant hotel room and dinner ordered from room service.
Next day, we took a cab for Pahalgam. The journey was simply divine and the beauty on the way is difficult to describe in words. In those days, people were not so mobile and there was not heavy tourist rush like the present days, not so in Srinagar and around.
Pahalgam was a small sleepy town in those days. It was all of 4-5 km long, along the river Lidder. The natural beauty was the USP of the town. It was also starting point of Amarnath Yatra. The nearest base camp was at Chandanwari. We walked up to Chandanwari, as locals told us that it’s a beautiful valley with great view. View from there was definitely very beautiful with greenery and snow capped mountains all around. But it was very smelly because of ponies, which were in large numbers waiting for Amarnath tourists. We spent our time roaming around the town like “do deewane shehar main” 🙂 There was a bridge across Liddar, which was a major attraction because of the view. We used to walk upto the bridge every day and absorb the natural beauty around. I have never seen that kind of serenity ever after, though have traveled a lot in last 3.5 decades.
It was 3rd June, we were sitting by the river Lidder, clicking photographs and having fun. Suddenly, we heard someone calling us. It was our hotel manager. He told us that there is an attack on Golden Temple, you should go back to Srinagar. Things may go worse in coming days. He helped us get a cab and we started immediately. He also packed some lunch and snacks with us. It was a very abrupt ending of our honeymoon.
As we were nearing the Srinagar, we could see the columns of smoke rising and the situation there. He took us to tourist reception centre. They guided us to go to airport and leave by first available flight. The small airport was overcrowded with many film units who might be there for their shooting. I remember late actor Rajkumar , Sadhna and few more. Most of the flights were cancelled. Flights were going only up to Jammu. RB, my husband was running around from one counter to other as there was lots of confusion about the flights, available seats and tickets issued.
And then the magic happened. Someone called his name – “Rajvir…idhar aa yaar.” RB went to that gentleman. He took his earlier booked tickets and came with two tickets upto Jammu in the next flight. Till date RB did not remember this man, who claimed to be his school mate. Finally, we could board the flight in an hour’s time. We reached Jammu. As we were waiting for our luggage to come, our names were announced. A distant relative, who was a BSF commandant has sent someone to pick us up. We stayed at his place for 2 or 3 nights, I do not remember. We came via the first train that had started from Jammu upto New Delhi. It was over crowded train. thanks to those strong fauji of BSF, we could manage to get two seats.It was so overcrowded that people were lying under the seats. It was a very tough and slow journey. A pilot engine used to cover 1–2 or 5 km and then our train used to cover that much distance. It took us more than 12 hours to reach Ambala Cantt station. We got down there at mid night. My uncle used to stay in Ambala city. We reached his place in an hour’s time. Next morning, we came to Delhi by bus. What a relief it was to come back home safe and sound !
- The quality of photos are bad and are not able to convey the beauty of the place. They were taken from a box camera of Agfa Isoly. Please bear with it.
- Photos clicked and copyrights with RB.