Kashmir pyjamas, punts and politics

The safety announcements were in one language only, and it wasn’t mine. And there are no other blondies on the plane. Praps they’re all going on the direct flights to Srinigar, instead of stopping momentarily in Jammu. We’re on the way to Kashmir.

The northernmost state of India has been on and off the tourist trail since Partition, thanks to the concentration of Indian Muslims living here, and the constant attempted infiltration of Pakistani ‘mischief-makers’, as one columnist today charmingly called those who have been found responsible for the 2008 Mumbai bombings.

So ‘hello’ is no longer ‘namaste’ but asalaam alyukum’ and ‘thank you’ has changed from ‘danyawat’ to ‘shukrai’. Sound familiar, Cairo?

Writing in the anti-government newspaper, the Hindustan Times, columnist Vir Sanghvi says, “The real target of the Hindu right is not Pakistan. It is the Indian Muslim…all Indian Muslims …can they be portrayed as traitors who enjoy the facilities offered by India but remain Pakistani at heart.“

Case in point is the news that India’s star tennis player Sania Mirza is going to marry Pakistani Shoaib Malik, a world-class cricketer. The gossip mags have had a field day with such vital information as Mirza being a traitor to India and Malik not good enough for her etc etc. And so the world turns.

Flying up to the capital of the state of Kashmir, Srinigar, the plane bounced around but I seemed to be the only one concerned. When I looked out the window, all was explained: we were ploughing through a massive cloud bank on top of a Himalayan peak. Enough said.

The next couple of nights are on a houseboat on the incomparibly beautiful Lake Dal, then on the ponies into the Himalays. 

Weather: cold.

Pyjama assessment: Poor.

About the author

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad.

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