Day 2, Part 2 - The understated charm of the Garden City
While scripting my itinerary for diffetent locales I would always get stuck in Sri Nagar city. For whatever impression i had about it i never expected it to offer something of its own beyond the shikaras n houseboats. Also, some how the image i was shown by different channels didn't put for a very exciting showing by this pristine town. For instance the revered Hazratbal mosque might find its mention in just one of the dozens of popular travelogues / websites! I personally liked the place very much. Of course, it may not be as overwhelming as Khwaza Moiuddin Chisti's in Ajmer Sharif but it has a presence & religious significance of its own. Don't forget to spend 30 minutes in the serene, quaint, Dal facing lawns of the mosque. I bet my money that you will forget all your miseries & would want to take more than a power nap here.
Which city comes to your mind when you recall "Mughal Garden"? I am sure some would try to instinctively say, "Delhi". I don't fault them for Sri Nagar hasn't let the world properly know it has not just one but actually three such jewels!! Here also, your tour operator might (unknowingly / unintentionally) want to guide you that "Chashma Shahi" is also called THE Mughal Garden. He is right!! Just one third of it if doesn't tell you that "Shalimar Garden" & "Nishaat Garden" complete the mindblowingly awesome trimverate of what was intended to be known as Kashmir's Mughal Gardens. Our cab driver revealed this & i got my money's worth there itself.
Shalimar is an imposing structure which makes you fall in love with it the moment you enter its modest entrance which grossly belies on what it is protecting! Its lush red n green facia reminds of all those Hindi movie songs which have made certain Chopras n Johars what they are today. I, the solo flying bird, for once regretted having missed the ethereal feeling of being in love with the concept of love. Excuse my gibberish treatment, i am getting overwhelmed by the great artistry. It being a Sunday, the place is thronged by the locals who have come in droves. Did i actually see a bunch of 30 odd free spirits sipping a cuppa tea, served pipping hot from a large vessle, with biscuits??!! My-o-my!! I felt like shamelessly asking a cup for my thirsty soul but my forcibly imbibed civic sense didn't allow me this privilege :(
There i passed by this careless Indo-firang couple engrossed in their own world of literary debate (i just overheard "Othello" by the graceful lady). There were mom's who came with their nursery going kids while their husbands would be deliberating about Dhoni's jibe on Tendulkar.
I realized that i had to keep an evening excusive for this beauteous creation of man. Alas, i had to move to the next one. For all my stay i had this strange feeling that something was amiss. I could sense that even as this Master could give any Mahi a run for his money on any given day perhaps it was not at its charming best! Could it be put on to the weather which possibly was not the best now? But who is complaining?? I actually am motivated to make sure that the Champ returns to its full glory when i seek my next appointment with the royalty.
Next on menu was Nishaat garden. Like Shalimar it is also crafted under the foot hills of a gigantic hill. Its tall boundry walls conceal what's gonna be revealed. On entry my immediate reaction was, "Thank my good heavens, it's not going to sap me of all my pluck". Trust me you guys truth couldn't be any closer to my poor imagination. Barely did i end up relishing the breathtaking beauty of the mazzanine floor i realized there were some stairs meant to take me to the next level. To cut the story short, it was a multi story beauty with each level (there were at least seven i vouch) trying to attract the penthouse premium from the other! Yes, each level had its own infiniti pool & a centrally liberating waterfall!! The size of all of them was at least that of Wembley and some of them could indeed aspire to beat the biggest olympics stadium hollow! I particulary got impressed with the way children & elders had UNRESTRICTED access to the pools. Every body just seemed to have forgotten that they were in a public place as they enjoyed with gay abandon. Kudos to J&K tourism for being so open & considerate on this largesse to its patrons. What a master stroke!! Even as by now i was literally dragging every single bone of me to the next higher level i finally gave up on the second last (and for which i won't forgive myself). What a visual treat it had been! I cursed myself for not researching well before coming here or i could have managed my stay more judiciously.
The last one was Chashme Shaahi & i got relieved when i realized that it was a poor second cousin to its more decorated siblings, both in sheer size & maintenance. I quickly winded up in just over five minutes & came down with (medically) heavy head wanting to hit the sack immediately. Then came the shocker! "Haven't you brought the water with you?" On my dead zombie like reaction the shopkeeper giving company to my Pa all this while educated me that there is a continuous stream of water coming out of a fish eye opening and that it had some medicinal properties to keep your digestion in order. So much so that the legend has it that Nehru Ji would get his daily dose shipped to him DAILY. I couldn't say no to the silent curiosity my Pa had & went up again first to drink myself besides filling in a bottle. As they say, "Every Chashma has its Shahi day".
1. To be able to do justice to the royal gardens don't pack them back to back on the same day. Trust me you'll end up missing all the fun & your limbs also won't shower praise upon you.