Intermezzo in Kashmir

On the Go

Ageh Bharti visited Kashmir from May 23–29, 2018, and had a surprising experience.

I had no mind to report about my Kashmir trip because nothing fascinated me to the extent of wanting to write. Maybe it was not the right season to visit the region because my taxi driver, Mr Imran, told me that in January the Dal Lake (a misnomer, as Dal in Kashmiri means lake) ices over and children skate over it. And that snow falling all over makes the valley look very beautiful. He also said that in summer the entire Srinagar, the gardens, the hills, wherever one looks, is full of red flowers. It was off-season for Kashmir visits and that’s why flight rates were lower.

It is not that I was not present there. I was very much present. Also, it is not that I did not enjoy being there. I went to see many parks but there are parks in Jabalpur too and also hills covered with green trees. Of course, the hill tops in Kashmir are higher and the trees are taller than in Jabalpur but to me that doesn’t mean much of a difference.

Ageh Bharti and Anupama
Shikara on Dal Lake
Dal Lake
Mini-Switzerland Pahalgam
On horseback
Jesus' grave
Jesus grave with donation box

I enjoyed the shikara ride in Dal Lake and observed the floating shops in the water; but Bargi Dam at Jabalpur is no less enjoyable with a big cruise ride in a vast span of water. Really, all of what I saw gave me the feeling that I am residing in a beautiful city, Jabalpur! However, what was very nice during this trip is that my travel companion, Ma Prem Anupam, helped keeping my spirits high with her occasional beautiful and insightful comments.

Hotels in Srinagar are usually fully booked and the many tourists enjoy to shop for all kinds of goods and souvenirs. In my opinion Srinagar’s major economy depends on tourists because although it was off-season I met people from Nagpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, Orissa, New Delhi, Patna, almost from every part of the country.

On another note I have to appreciate the tricky local system of Kashmir due to which everybody gets their hands on some business. I travelled with a package tour that provided me with a taxi driver from Srinagar, Mr Imran as mentioned. Many of the propagated places of interest are just a cheat. There are places where your taxi is not allowed to enter; the driver will rest during the 3–4 hours when you either have to hire another taxi for ₹1600 or you walk in there on foot and return, and he might undertake some short-term business during that time as well. Thus, two taxi drivers get business out of one tourist at the same time.

Then, this second taxi too is not allowed at certain points, so, horses, who are standing by in hundreds, have to be hired. This means the horseman also gets some business from the tourist. Next, some women and children meet you somewhere on the way with their sheep and hares, etc. The horseman stops to enable the women and children to come close, offering their domestic animals for you to take them on your lap, stroke them, and feel good – and then they ask for some money.

Anupam and I decided to hire horses and told the hotel owner that we were interested in seeing Jesus’ grave in Pahalgam. He gave instructions to the horseman to take us to a certain point. The horseman nodded his head in agreement as if he knew already. To our surprise, when we reached the destination, called Mini-Switzerland, we saw nothing else than barren land surrounded by hills and trees. Half a dozen shops offering tea, coffee and cold drinks, etc, were scattered around. Several friendly-looking tourists were standing or sitting around, chatting among themselves.

I asked my horseman to take me to Jesus’ grave. He told me that it could be seen from the end of the land but that we couldn’t go there because of the wire fencing around the grounds. We decided to walk to the fencing and Anupam declared that she could pass through the fence somehow but I shouldn’t go to avoid getting hurt. I told her that I could lie down on my back and slowly pass to the other side. The horseman and Anupam insisted that I mustn’t do that but the two of them would somehow manage. When they passed through the wire fencing I too went down on my back and slid on the slightly wet ground under the fence to the other side.

After walking a few metres we saw the grave. It too was fenced in but we could open a tiny wooden gate that allowed us access to it. It was not properly maintained, in fact it appeared uncared for. It is just a roughly hewn stone about five feet high and nine to ten feet long. I tried to locate the few words written on it as reported by Osho but couldn’t make out anything. Maybe the words wore away due to the exposure to the elements. A donation box is kept on top of the grave; maybe a few children earn some money that way.

Osho says about this stone grave, “His [Jesus’] grave is still there, in Kashmir. The inscription is in Hebrew… in India there are no Jews. The inscription says Joshua. That is Jesus’ name in Hebrew; Jesus is Greek for Joshua. ‘Joshua came here’ – the time, date – ‘a great master, lived with his disciples in silence, lived long, one hundred and twelve years, and used to call himself The Shepherd. Hence the place itself became known as ‘the village of the shepherd’. You can go to the village, it exists still – Pahalgam; that is the Hindi translation of ‘the village of the shepherd’.” ¹

This is a different site to the much speculated about Rauzabal shrine that allegedly is built over Jesus’ tomb, located in the old part of Srinagar. ²

It is because of a beautiful soul in a beautiful teenage girl and about her beautiful parents that made me write after all. It was on May 25th that Anupam and I were visiting Pari Mahal, also called The Angels’ Abode, a seven-terraced garden overlooking the city of Srinagar. I have no memory at all as to how and who started to talk. I must not divulge the girl’s name to avoid any problems from her community. An imaginary name such as Priya will do.

In Srinagar, a hundred per cent of the women wear the burqa covering themselves from head to toe. Out of those, 80% keep their faces uncovered, Priya among them. She started to talk in such a manner as if she knows me for ages and also closely. I started telling her the message of my Master Osho that “New man or no man, there is no third alternative.” I told her that the new man won’t have any adjective of caste, creed, religion and nationality. He will be a citizen of the world. Because wherever there is partition, a division, there is fight, there is war. If we want peace and a loving atmosphere to live in, we have to go for one global government. We are connected to the whole. The entire existence is supporting and contributing for us to exist.

She was in a state of awe. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She said, “So wonderful! You are so sweet! I have never come across a man like you. Whatever you are saying appears to be so divine.”

I told her I would love to share more with her and suggested we sit down on the lawn. As we moved together with Anupam over to the grassy area, she suggested for us to sit on the vacant chairs standing at a little distance. She was holding my hand to support my walk. A man and woman and three children were also following us at a little distance. We all sat down and the man, woman and three children sat behind Priya.

Pari Mahal Srinagar
Priya with her parents and nephews

I shared a few of my experiences that had happened in Muslim assemblies. She continued to listen in wonderment. Then I recited some shers (verses) of Ghazals composed by me. She was taking in every single word I uttered.

She then said, “You are so great. Please accept my request and be my guest.” I expressed some difficulty to be her guest at that stage. Then she insisted we eat something together. I expressed my inability at that time. She asked me for my autograph and said, “You have told me such wonderful things that they appear to be coming straight from the Divine. In fact, you have become my heart-beat.” Her tears were flowing nonstop.

My tears flowed too when I learnt that the people sitting behind Priya were her father and mother, and the children were nephews. I told the parents, “You are wonderful parents who have given birth to a goddess in the form of Priya. She is great! My taxi driver told me that the population in Srinagar is 100% Muslim. So, in a pure Muslim population, Priya is holding hands with an unknown, non-Muslim person, and shedding tears at every word I speak; it is just unbelievably wonderful!” They too expressed their happiness at the whole event. Priya didn’t want me to leave, so I promised to visit her at her home before leaving Kashmir. Though they had explained their address to my taxi driver, we could not go for shortage of time and returned to our hotel by 8 pm, totally tired.

On my return to Jabalpur I phoned her father as Priya does not have her own phone. The father also made appreciative comments and was very respectful. After he handed the phone to his daughter, she asked me why I had broken my promise by not coming to her home. I apologised, explaining the situation as mentioned earlier.

She said, “Sir, I want to say one thing to you that I have not said to anyone until now… that I will pray to the Almighty every day to give half of my age to you. Because you are the cause of happiness to so many, you should live long.”

She also added that she would try to get good marks at school to secure a good job, and then invite me to Kashmir on her expenses!

Priya then inquired if I had seen my Master. I told her that I had not only seen Him, I had been very close to Him and still am. She responded, “Oh! That’s why you have such grace and luminosity on your face even at your age! That’s why you look like an angel. I have no words to express my thankfulness that you gave so much time to me that day!”

I said, “I salute you, my beloved child and shall never forget you.”

¹ Related article on Osho News – Jesus in Kashmir
² Quote by Osho from The Osho Upanishad, Ch 2, Q 1

Ageh BhartiAgeh Bharti is a regular contributor

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