Kashmir: The Land Of Streams & Solitudes | By P. Pirie | Part 3

Up the River

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Kashmir: The land of streams & solitudes

By P.Pirie

Illustrations by H.R. Pierie

Printer: WM. Brendon and Sons, Ltd Plymouth


Up the River

From the desolation of Pandrinthan , its hoary temple, and traces of a vanished city, one returns to the river and is met by its sparkling, breeze-stirred surface, the brilliance of sun of May, and the sweet singing of many larks overhead; while the clear liquid note of the golden oriole, on the branch of a chinar tree, reminds one that this cool, song-filled morning is not, after all, of Europe, but a part of the most romantic region of the mysterious East.

Going up the river by boat is a mode of progress that combines many attractions. To begin with, all considerations of time are forgotten. It is as if Time were not. This is not because the speed is such as to annihilate space and time, for the average pace of a boat going up-stream might, perhaps, be described as glacial. But because time simply does not exist on the river, and ‘non numero nisi serenas’ might well be one’s motto almost anywhere in the charmed Valley.

Near Srinagar, it is true, the midday gun from Akbar’s Fort on the hill of Hari Parbat knocks at the gate of consciousness with a fleeting reminder of the trammeled world you have left behind you; the poor deluded world which thinks itself so progressive and enlightened, fettered by time-tables and bound to a deary treadmill of either pleasure or duty. Besides, no person of sense remains in Srinagar, since there are so many hundred miles of alluring jungle in with to forget Time.

On the river-road one may learn with the French philosopher, “quelle petite place it faut pour la Joei, et combine peu son logment Coute a meubler.”\

If we have no Time we are rich in sunrises and sunsets, glorious noondays, golden afternoons, and nights filled with bewitching sadness of moonlight or the glittering mystery of star-lit skies. The days uncounted by measured and classified hours are a majestic procession of changing skies and lovely landscape, whose beauty seems to be heightened by each varying effect of cloud or sunlight that passes over them in this magic atmosphere.

The Kashmiris themselves have a picturesque way of talking, which shows what are for them the true divisions of Time. Official calendars and rigid limitations of months and dates are little heeded by them, and the months are counted by the flowers or fruit that come in them.

“In the time of flowers,’ meaning apple and pear blossom, says the boatman, ‘it is always like this, clouds and rain, and sometimes, also, sunshine.’

“In the time of mulberries,” say the fisherman, “you will catch many fish at Sumbal.”

“when the maize is ripe,” says the shikari, “the bears come down from the jungle.”

No one hurries on the river. The boat is towed up-stream at an average rate of something under two miles an hour, so I am told by those who have not lost the habit of measuring things by ordinary standards even in Kashmir. But this lack of haste is one of the great charms of the journey.

To most people the idea of travel is fraught with tiresome associations of hurry and dust and noise, added to the desolating certainty that one will be snatched relentlessly away from all the charming places on has brief glimpses of, and where one longs to linger. The contract of this leisured progress, without dust, without hurry, without noise, one’s own pleasure its only law, its only sound the ripple of the water under the prow of the advancing boat as it glides smoothly on, is as delightful as it is at first bewildering. For it seems hardly natural to get so near to lofty snow-covered peaks and into the heart of the hills without exertion or labour.