As September comes to an end, I find myself frequently reminiscing about my trip to Kashmir last year. It’s a recurring pattern for me; when a particular time of the year arrives, memories of what transpired in the previous year flood my mind. This can happen not only for the previous year but also for moments from years past. Sometimes it’s triggered by a specific weather condition, a familiar fragrance in the air, or even seemingly random moments. These memories often haunt me, resurfacing during my meditation sessions or while I take leisurely walks in the park, gazing at the moon’s gentle glow through the scattered clouds in the night sky.
My desire to visit Kashmir had long been a plan in the making. It all began when I had a vivid dream of a magnificent shrine dedicated to Hazrat Makhdoom Sahib (RA), one of the greatest saints of the valley. In my dream, I stood inside his shrine, surrounded by people engaged in a sufi dhikr, their voices harmoniously chanting a beautiful prayer. Amidst them, I noticed a man with a short white beard, a common sight among Kashmiri men. He wore an unusual expression, seemingly pretending to be mad. Yet, I couldn’t dismiss him, for an overwhelming sense of bliss and blessings radiated from him with an irresistible force. I felt compelled to embrace him, even if he were the maddest of men. I knew he wasn’t insane; it was as if the Divine spoke through him, almost against his will. As I gazed at him in my dream, enchanted by the melodious dhikr, a dark woman suddenly appeared before me. She spoke loudly and urgently, attempting to convey something to me. Who was she? I couldn’t discern, but her persistence succeeded in rousing me from my dream, back to the realm of reality, to my mundane life. I woke up, pondering the mysterious encounter.
You might wonder if I encountered this man in reality during my visit to Srinagar last year. To my disappointment, I did not cross paths with him, despite spending long hours at the shrine daily, hoping for his appearance. Was he real, or was he a product of my imagination? It’s impossible to say, as many saints prefer to remain hidden from the public eye.
This dream served as my “invitation” to Kashmir, and I’ve never regretted embarking on the journey to this beautiful valley with its unique people, cuisine, and fragrances. During my time there, mingling with the locals, exploring the mountains, and visiting ancient temples and shrines in remote locations, one aspect remained constant – a profound and enchanting silence that pervaded every corner I ventured into. Silence enveloped everything, both externally and internally, in people and animals, in the mountains and the tranquil waters of Dal Lake. The people of Kashmir carried this serene silence with them, and it was this sense of peace that resonated deeply with me. There was no trace of violence on the streets or any signs of aggression in the people I encountered. Everyone welcomed me warmly, and their kindness and hospitality made me understand why Kashmir is often referred to as “Heaven on Earth.”
And then, there was my encounter with the majesty of Saffron. It marked my first time witnessing how saffron is cultivated and experiencing the fragrance of its blossoms. The saffron flower, with its inherent strength and beauty drawn from the mountains, left an indelible impression on me. It exuded a unique potency akin to that of medicine. But I’ll delve into that in my next post…
Picture: Author (Eugene) together with renowned Kashmiri writer Mohammad Ashraf Fazili