Which is the place where you have met the most hospitable people! For years, tourists have been worried to go to Kashmir. For four years, I have been steadily trying to take more and more people to Kashmir. When every batch goes back, I tell them to share their experiences with their friends and family.

Kashmiri Hearts

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Which is the place where you have met the most hospitable people!
In February, when I brought a group to Kashmir, on the last day we were walking in this village in Pahalgam. And as we walked by a house, the family invited us in. Despite our protests, they fed us, gave us kahwa, gave each one of us half a dozen golden apples. Mostly they overwhelmed us with their generosity and their warmth. Last week, when I went again to Pahalgam with a group, we were out on a walk. Wishfully I hoped to bump into the family again. As we crossed their house, I smiled to myself. Moments should not be forced. But to my amazement, I heard some voices “andar aa jao, dinner karo hamare saath” and I turned to see a lady calling our group in. It was Faiza, whom I had met in February. Delighted I walked over to her and she excitedly screamed “Arre Captain”. We all trooped in and were treated to magnificent hospitality.
Two days back, five of us were walking in a residential road in Srinagar. It was drizzling. Suddenly a voice said to us, “Chhatri mein aa jao”. An old lady was offering us shade in her umbrella. It was so sweet. She did not care about getting wet herself. We kept walking with her, Vijay sharing her umbrella, and spoke to her about life.
Every other day, when I am walking in Srinagar, people recognise me by my cap. Cars stop and a familiar face comes out of the window (my drivers from the past, a tea stall owner, some staff from a hotel I stayed in sometime) and they all ask me to join them for lunch at their house. Every single time. I am recognised in other cities, towns, hill stations too, but nowhere have I been asked to come over to people’s houses for meals as much as the Kashmiris have offered.
My transporter agent is always upset with me because every time we speak, he asks me to visit his house for dinner, and I have to politely decline because I am busy with my group. I am worried he might call the whole gang over, he is so generous.
Sometime back I was in Yousmarg. In the evening I went for a walk. And when I did not return to the hotel after 4 hours, Salman and Aaquib, brothers and owners of Sangarmal hotel, got out their Thar and began searching for me frantically. When I met them, I felt so touched by their concern for me.
For years, tourists have been worried to go to Kashmir. For four years, I have been steadily trying to take more and more people to Kashmir. When every batch goes back, I tell them to share their experiences with their friends and family. Since last year, the number of tourists has increased a lot, and this year there has been a mad rush. Kashmir has never seen as many tourists as now.
The reasons might be many. But hopefully they will see this beautiful place beyond the locations, and see the large heartedness of the regular Kashmiri.
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Neeraj Narayanan

Neeraj Narayanan, a.k.a Captain Nero, is the founder of OHOT. In the summer of 2013, he quit his corporate job and went backpacking around the world. In a year full of (mis)adventures, he ended up being chased by a bear in a Croatian forest, being held at gunpoint by a mafia gang lord in Turkey, running with the bulls in Spain, and dancing in the clubs of Spain and Italy. A year later, he started leading group trips for people.

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