When ethereal rules
A visit to the Tulip Gardens of Kashmir is enough for one to appreciate the very impact of natural beauty that poets often talk about, writes Nilosree Biswas
A message from Shaheen — my oldest friend in Kashmir teaching at the Kashmir University — woke me up that morning. It read quite high octane unlike her usual messages, “Don’t tell me that I haven’t told you this time,” followed with a smirk icon, “Tulip Garden is opening in a week. If at all you can manage, let me know,” ending with a laugh out icon. I smiled at myself, cherishing the hint of sarcasm that my friend had made. In the next 48 hours, a quick decision and an early morning flight to Srinagar, there I was responding to Shaheen’s message.
From afar I saw a sea, a sea of colours as I stepped into what remains the most impressionistic memory for me. There it was — thousands of tulips swaying in the tender breeze, making conversation with the crystal clear blue sky. Colours as rich as they could get, the reds, the creams, the violets, the yellows, the purples.They enamoured my senses as I strolled in the Tulip Gardens as it is commonly called, nearly two hours of that morning of late March.
Till this colourful encounter I had seen only images of tulips from the Netherlands in numerous photos and in the art of Henry Dudley Murphey, a late nineteenth century lithographer, and in the works of Dutch Golden age painter, Judith Lester, whose solitary painting ‘Tulip’ is still considered as one of the masterworks of 19th century.
Inside the vast garden, thousands of visitors were roaming around, conversations and chatter filled the air.I slowly walked through the long winding lanes between the tulips. Just 200metres from where I was, I saw a group of Korean visitors — a woman in her 50s, wearing a flowery cap, bending down to take a close look at a red tulip. She looked at me with a smile that global travelers often share. I reciprocated with a “Hi”. In unaccented English she said, “This is my fourth year to the gardens and you know, I always make sure that my leave from office is sanctioned much in advance for this,” said Keiko Bang, who I learnt
is a Mathematics teacher at a school in Bushan, South Korea and is a part of a 40-member teacher group especially visiting the valley for the flower festival. She was quick to invite me for coffee in the visitors’ cafeteria later. I wondered how beauty of nature can be an attraction sans boundaries.
Strolling deep inside the garden, I reached a relatively sparse section. I stood in the pool of cream tulips that surrounded me. They were different and stood their own ground in that riot of colours. Suddenly, I saw someone right in the middle of the bed of flowers. Drawing his attention I ended up having a conversation with 33-year-old Bashir Ahmed, one of the lead gardeners, who’d been working there since 2007.
Shyly, he responded to my question regarding the varieties of the tulips. In a mixed Urdu-Hindi, he said: “Each year more varieties get added and now we have some rarest types that had been imported from Holland directly. I have not been to foreign but I think ours is the best.” He had a smile, defined by a sense of pride, beaming on his face.
I decided to take a small break with a refill of energy choosing to have the famous Kashmiri kahwa (an infusion made with sliced almond and saffron strands). I wasn’t surprised with the sizeable crowd at the food kiosk stall — such is the pull of the exotic drink.
In a few minutes, I found a corner and tucked myself in. Just when they served my tea that looked unreally invigorating, a husky voice popped a question, “Hi, what does it taste like”. I got conscious of the presence and looked up — smilingly they greeted me. It was Rishav and Sunaina Thadani, a honeymooning couple. Sunaina quipped “I have never been to Kashmir but my parents had their honeymoon here 30 years ago. I was my dream to be here. I had told Rishav that Kashmir had to be our honeymoon destination. On arriving, we came to know of the Tulip Festival, it’s so unreal !” She takes a breather while Rishav peaks it up, “Anyone would feel romantic here, I felt like breaking into a SRK number”. We all laughed together.
- The largest Tulip Gardens in Asia roll over a sloped landscaped garden with a terraced pattern spreading over an area of about 30 hectares. Situated on the foothills of Zabarwan range of greater Himalayas, with an overview of the iconic, ethereal Dal Lake, and seemingly unending bloom of 1.5 million tulips from 46 varieties, some of them are the rarest in Asia
- This year, the garden was scheduled to open around March 25 till April 15
- Information about the history of this beautiful flower, art work related to tulips, paintings and other forms of art, were added to the garden during the festival. A small museum engaged visitors who wanted to know more about this flower in detail
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