The Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) is holding its 64th annual convention in Kashmir after a gap of over thirty years, with an aim to promote tourism in  Kashmir. This is planned in conjunction with the mesmerizing annual Tulip garden festival which has been judged among the “Top five tulip destinations” in the world by the World Tulip Summit Society, Canada. The hypnotizing view of the garden will be open to the public from 25 March onwards. There will be decorated kiosks and stalls showcasing handicrafts and cuisine of Kashmir with a traditional and ethnic touch. One of its kind the Tulip Festival in Kashmir celebrates the blooming season of the magnificent Tulips.

Breathtaking view feels like a dream

Tulips in full bloom

A smooth cruising drive of a mere 9 kilometers from Srinagar along the soothing Dal Lake towards the south brings us to the seven terraced Tulip Garden.This garden cradles in the gentle slopes of the mighty Zabarwan hills. It is flanked by a manicured lush green golf course in the north and the pristine Dal Lakealmost washes its entrance to the west.

Seven terraced beauty put visitors awestruck each year

Antiquity and an ambiance of timeless regality are bestowed by the nearby Chashme Shahi and Pari Mahal complexes to this Tulip Garden. An entry into this garden is akin to savoring paradise as God intended it to be. The eye gets riveted to the numerous parallel running rows of more than a million multi-colored tulip flowers.The garden is full of red, orange, yellow, purple and mauve tulips to name a few. Apart from tulips, there are numerous multi-colored hybrid flowers too. Nature has liberally run riot with the color combinations of these hybrid flowers.The flowers too have their own distinctly varied shapes. Some are hemispherical like turbans, others are elongated, many have scattered petals or simply loose and upward flowing petals and sepals that look like erupting flames.A gentle uphill climb brings us to the delightful fruit trees that dot the rim of this garden. The slender branches of these trees are covered with different colored buds and flowers. Since these trees at this time have not yet re-grown their leaves after the winter; the abundant luscious flowers look divine when viewed against a dazzling blue sky.

Beyond the trees, further upslope, the Pari Mahal benignly smiles at the tulip scapes, much like an aging queen smilingly admires her feminine progeny coming of age. Gazing downhill the eye runs along the striped mosaic of tulips, created by compactly laid complimentary and contrasting colored flowers that appear to reach all the way down to the shore of the Dal Lake. The lake itself sports beautiful floating fountains. In addition to tulips, the other bulbs material grown in the garden include Hyacinths, Narcissus, Daffodils, Muscaria and Iris which will leave all visitors mesmerized by the beauty of this place.

Hurts to say this

Kashmir, once synonymous with tourism, is now associated with the lack of it. This sector has been devastated by increasing militancy in the Valley, and modern industry, as well as infrastructure development, is virtually at a standstill. It is very unfortunate that Kashmir’s tourism has been hit badly amid continued unrest in the Valley. The Valley’s tourist destinations wore a deserted look last summer. The locals should realize that militancy, repeated strikes, ATM loots, stone pelting incidents, negative videos on social media etc. are the reason for the deep mistrust created between tourists and Kashmir. Last year, six foreign tourists, including two women, who were returning from Kargil in a taxi where held hostage by the Kashmiri locals, who accused them of braid-chopping. Such incidents further mar the image of Kashmir and therefore it comes as no surprise that twenty-five lakh people who are associated with the tourism industry in Kashmir are at the receiving end year after year.

What the youth in the valley want is peaceful education system, good jobs and small initiatives like this –  Mega Festival or KWFF(Kashmir World Film Festival). What they certainly do not want is unrest in the Valley, stone pelting, and militancy.

21 Mar 2018/Wednesday                                                                afsana159630@gmail.com