Kashmir in its pristine glory as autumn arrives (Travel Feature)
Srinagar : As turtle doves and pigeons compete with each other to the accompaniment of cicada's flattering music to pick the fallen grain left behind in paddy fields after harvesting, the message is loud and clear - autumn, Kashmir's golden brown season of plenty, has arrived.
Notwithstanding the sporadic incidents of violence, one can never have enough of Kashmir at this time. Film units from Bollywood and south India have started arriving here to capture the glory of the picture-postcard season.
The unmistakable nip in the mornings and the evenings, the ripening of apples, walnuts, grapes, rice and maize are all indications that the farmers and the orchardists must make hay while the sun shines over meadows, mountains peaks and the plains of Kashmir.
Nomadic goatherds called Bakerwals are hurrying with their flocks of sheep and goats down to warmer pastures in the Jammu region. The passage of these hardy souls carrying back children, tents, household goods and other equipment they needed during their stay in the alpine pastures of the Valley is a saga of human endeavour and hardship.
Countryside has suddenly come to life as men and women reap the grain-laden paddy crop. Thanks to timely rains and a comparatively hotter summer, this year's paddy yield is expected to be rich.
This, despite the fact that the state agriculture department had issued advisories for restraining paddy sowing to only well-irrigated areas as experts feared less than average rainfall during the summer months.
Truckloads of apples of different varieties are these days despatched to markets outside the state.
The rates of different varieties of apple are better than last year in markets outside the Valley.
This has encouraged the local orchardists who are taking extra caution to ensure that only the best quality apples are sent to outside markets.
Kashmiri apple is facing fierce competition from Himachal Pradesh where good quality apples are now grown and marketed.
The glistening waters of local streams, rivers and lakes are soothing as plenty of fish, both local and exotic species, abound.
Flocks of swans and ducks floating majestically on the waters of the Dal, Mansbal and the Wullar lake are a pageant of plume and cackle.
The majestic chinar trees are slowly, but surely beginning to change the color of their leaves from green to crimson, eventually to turn to golden brown.
Autumn is undoubtedly the best season in Kashmir as Mother Nature showers her blessings so that the locals start equipping themselves for the harsh winter that follows.
Before the end of the next month, thousands of migratory birds from far off lands like China, Philippines, Eastern Europe and Siberia would arrive to ward off the extreme cold of their summer homes and spend the winter months in the relatively less harsh winter of Kashmir.
Traditionally, most foreign tourists prefer to visit the Valley during the autumn months and the local houseboat owners, hoteliers and taxi owners are looking forward to host these visitors.
In all its radiant glory, autumn stands to prove what the Sufi saint and poet Amir Khusrau said about Kashmir in Persian: 'Agar Firdaus Bar roo-e zameen ast/Hameen ast-o, Hameen ast-o, hameen ast' (If there is a paradise on Earth, it is this, it is this, it is this).
Violence should have been so alien to this land.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)