Well actually it is not an International Airport, yeah there was a single flight some years ago but that was it. Like international cricket matches, international flights also have stopped. Wait, Srinagar Airport is not even an airport to begin with but an airbase.
On October 27, 1947, Dakotas from India landed in Kashmir with its military forces. Since then the Air Traffic Control is under the Indian Air Force and the change of nomenclature was a cosmetic measure to upgrade the building facilities.
Walk away from the Airport a fresh breeze blows against your face. This is when you realise that this is truly a heaven as said by many poets and writers of the yore.
A taxi ride will take you through the poshest areas of Srinagar. Makes one wonder that despite the terrible repression and militarisation, Kashmiris can still build houses fit enough for three families while on average only one occupies it.
Anyway, it is time for you to pose for a selfie with a Kashmiri driver just to make it seem exotic. A caption “In Our Kashmir, Heaven on Earth, Love India and Love Kashmir”. Emphasis on ‘our’ with love associated with India and Kashmir.
Wave to the Indian Soldiers you’ll see everywhere in bunkers their guns poking at that kid who could be a ‘potential terrorist’.
You have reached the hotel. Time for a picture “View from my room #Kashmir #India #JaiHind”. Add a filter to hide the bunkers and instructions written in Urdu.
It’s Tulip season. A million troopers. I mean tulips await your auspicious presence. Usually we associate such huge numbers with the Indian Troops but this for a change. Yes there are costumes and a photo wallah to picture you with the background of Tulips.
Memory doesn’t fade away like Tulips of Springs. A few blocks away to Siraj Bagh lies the residence of Mufti Syed, India’s man in Kashmir. The residence called ‘Fairview Guesthouse’ doesn’t give away what it hides beneath its white washed walls. There’s history of blood and memory.
For the rest of the world it is a house with English architecture but for the people Kashmir, it is a source of bitter memory. It’s Papa II.
Moving on to the vintage Shikara trip through the famous lakes of the Dal and the Nigeen. Relish the sight of weeds and rubbish floating over its surface. Take selfie Love the Shikar #Kashmir #India. I meant Shikara, Shikar are the ordinary Kashmiris whose life expectancy depends on a sane Indian trooper.
Not to forget it was a dumping ground for the Torture Camps. So float on the invisible mass grave.
Stopover at Pari Mahal, the magnificent relic of Dara Shikoh. Here you have the entire city’s view. Zabarwan, Dal Lake, Shikaras, Koh e Maran and Koh e Sulaiman as well. But the better views have been occupied by Military bunkers. Sucks, tell me about it!
Wait, I didn’t give you information about this place. Well a Canadian student Laura Jane was gang-raped here after being kidnapped by your benevolent and brave Indian soldiers. Spoiled your holiday yet?
Time to shop. Here you have the world-famous shawls with paisley designs handmade and work of amazing artistry. Expensive but worth it. But you want to take cheap stuff @ RS 300 as souvenirs and show them off as Made in Kashmir.
Look no further than a cheap knockoff from Amritsar or China brought by local traders with no sense for art but money. Well that’s what happens in a place with enormous unemployment and lack of avenues. There’s always scope for quick money.
There you go an Amritsari Shawl (acting as a Kashmiri one). It’s like Indian movies that portrayed Kashmir in the 90s in Shimla and Manali.
The driver never takes you inside the city where the culture of any city is rooted. Two reasons
a) Smell of barbecued beef at KFC not KFC but Khayam Food Chowk.
b) You don’t want to because your travel agent has explained that part of city is ‘trouble’. With daily dose of verbal diarrhea from Barkhas, Arnabs and their cheap but crass versions, the people of the city are ‘savages’.
That’s how the erstwhile colonial powers projected the colonised people. To make their colonisation acceptable and serve to bring ‘civilisation’.
Did you even see the stray dogs around the ‘peace’ part of the City? Lucky you.
Next stop is Gulmarg or Sonmarg or Pahalgam. The tourist pattern is similar
a) Take pictures add #India #Kashmir #JaiHind #AtootAng with filters to hide the bunkers
b) Take rides on poor ponies that are in awful shape and act as if you’re riding stallions. #HorseRiding when it is a pony.
c) Posing for your next display picture on Facebook.
d) Cheerful family photos with the grandmother tired from the journey still wearing a saree and slippers.
Time to head back home. But it becomes very important for a nationalist India to post a selfie with an Indian Soldier. Some are given guns to pose (you don’t believe me? go check #Kashmir #bigots on Instagram).
It’s time to go, the driver comes back. You will miss the weather and the beautiful people.
Step into the Airport where you have to be early atleast two hours from time. That’s because there are 18 security checks until you reach the plane. Free massages. But this Japanese student didn’t like them and tried to attempt suicide.
As you board the plane, there are more selfies. Mountains and in the picture frame creep in the soldiers. Well, you are not supposed to picture at the Srinagar Airport. But then the rules are different for Indians and Kashmiris.
While the plane rises to 30,000 feet in the air, your eyes will fall on the napkin on your seat which reads cheeky “Indi Go Back” a popular slogan in Kashmir since Sheikh Abdullah’s coup in 1953.
Anyway this doesn’t impress you and then you overhear Kashmiris talking about the humiliation felt at airport. And you wonder why?
You go home. Upload photos with default photos. As if you returned from a foreign country, you give mini talks to your friends. Since Kashmir has its way of finding its way in the news almost weekly.
Wondering what the f is happening? They were so ‘normal’ while we visited.
Even argue with the Kashmiri with the same jis-thali-mein-ched-kartay-ho mindset. Not recalling that the guide, the driver, the shopkeeper etc work their asses off to earn those Gandhis of yours.
Plus you say that your violence (because a hundred kids have been killed or women raped or settlers are taking over so what’s the sense of a protest) will affect the Tourism on which entire Kashmir lives on. I wonder who manufactured Apples and Saffron in that box or that Cricket bat you have taken home?
Since you have the ‘experience’ of visiting Kashmir (like interlocutors), you have become an expert. You know more about Kashmir than your friends and you also know what is better for Kashmiris.
Thank you for visiting Kashmir. Please visit again. Bring your flags next time to mark your territory. Cheers.