I observe him working on a box, the elaborate detailing of which leaves me totally awe struck. He captures even the tiniest veins of a leaf with a whole multitude of tools which he sifts through to find the best fit. Chunks of walnut wood come off as he strikes the box, digging out the famous undercut . He carefully brushes them away, his face focused and passionate for the love of his work. He occasionally leans against the wall of boar, shutting his eyes and imagining different patterns and designs which he then carves out with utmost skill and precision. “When I shut my eyes, manzars (scenes) of various flowers and landscapes flash before my eyes, as if waiting for me to draw them”, he explains.
Nurtured in the very bosom of the Himalayas was hidden this treasure, the purest of salts available on planet earth – the pink rock salt. Also known as ‘White Gold’, the rock salt is prettily pink and is composed of 84 vital minerals essential to the human body. It takes a total of 250 million years for Mother Nature to conjure this precious salt from its lap far away from the world of impurities and adulterations. The salt is then mined and washed by hand. When ready, the end result is something which has a taste as unforgettable as its health benefits.
And while you are bracing yourself for the color play of Holi with all your clothing, accessories, and food, you might add another very important thing to your checklist - skin care. Yes. It goes without saying that the colors which are used in this joyful festival contain harsh chemicals which cause some serious abuse to your skin and hair, leaving then dry, chapped and in some cases causing breakouts and allergies. And it often happens that the beauty conscious in you exercises restraint to protect your skin and care from the cruelties of colors. And restraint means not enjoying to the fullest! However, this stuff can easily be taken care of by following a few precautions pre and post the festival.
“An independent woman is someone who knows her identity and has figured it out completely. Being an independent woman, and a happy one at that, is the most important person you can be. When you’re not dependent on anyone else, you get to live your life with that free mind and soul. You don’t have to wait for people, you never put yourself second, and your complete self-awareness keeps you always doing your thing —happily so. An independent woman takes care of herself and her family as well. She is capable of so much. We just need to realize this. By being this independent woman, you set an example for your children to follow, just like my mother did.
Being independent isn’t an option, it is a necessity. So I hope we work on this”
Simple, vivacious and determined, Nusrat Jahan Ara is a face which has inspired scores of Kashmiri women to break free from the routine household chores and secure pensioned government jobs and thrive in the field of business – something which is not quite common in the valley of Kashmir.
“Our Hand-made personal care and home care products will cover a wide range from body butters and soaps to Jams and herbal tea. All formulations are based on locally available ingredients, either cultivated by local farmers or grown in forest areas. These Fruits, Flowers, herbs and essential oils are then transformed using centuries-old principles of Ayurveda and ethno-botany, all the while keeping the percentage of botanical ingredients to at least 90% of the total weight of each product. No harmful chemicals, petroleum products or bleaching agents are used in any of our formulations. The name “Kashmir Essence” come from the fact that our all ingredients have the essence of Kashmir in it. For centuries, the name Kashmir has been synonymous with beauty & magic and so are our products. We at Kashmir Essence aspire to use age old Ayurveda formulations in line with the deep knowledge and passion of our R&D team and entrepreneurs to develop a wide range of health and beauty products locally”, says a humble, yet determined Nusrat Jahan Ara.
The Valley of Rich Cuisines as it is called, people of Kashmir have always taken pride in their ability to conjure royal feasts out of simple ingredients. From royal fetes of Wazwan to routine dishes cooked in every home, the Kashmiris have mastered and maintained the knack of adding a distinct flavor to their food, which cannot be matched by any other cuisine in the world. When we hear of Kashmiri kitchen ingredients or spices, the popular saffron flashes our mind. But there is much more to it than just Saffron. Spices which are simple, yet unheard of blend together in perfect harmony to impart that uniquely Kashmiri flavor which just cannot be put into words!
The Valley of Kashmir is known for its harsh and gelid winters and it often happens that the valley is cut off from the rest of the world when it snows. In order to sustain the difficulties associated with this beautiful, yet tough season, the people of Kashmir sun-dry their vegetables during peak summers and store them for use during times when the valley stands completely aloof! In the modern times, when there is no such thing as being cut off, the people of Kashmir still hold on to this dried cuisine as part of their tradition and culture!
The snow spreads smiles across faces as it covers the entire valley into a magnificent white blanket and feeds the Himalayan glaciers and rivers, providing a supply of pure and pristine water to every nook and cranny of the valley, as it did on January 6’ 2017 after years of dry winters in Kashmir.
Its downpour became a time for merry making as people welcomed its arrival in joyful ways for they were all excited about the fun they were about to have. People from different walks of life enjoy the Sheen in their own unique way. There are activities for everybody, cutting across social barriers. They range from playful Snow fights in the bylanes of Shehar –e- Khaas (popularly known as Sheen Jung) to the elite skiing festivals in Gulmarg. Some like to mark their footprints over plain sheets of snow while others make a dazzling display of their creativity in making snow persons, locally known as Shinne Mohnuiv. Some like to make snow ice creams and hog them up while others like to laze around under a comfortable blanket and let the snowfall do a therapeutic treatment for them.
- The colors and fabrics in which Phirans have evolved also count for a major transition not only in the attire but also in how people in Kashmir view winters. Earlier, winters used to be associated with gray skies and despondent weathers which used to reflect in the colors of the phiran – blacks, grays, whites and browns. The new gen, however, believes that these colors only add to the gloominess of the atmosphere. People have started giving color to this season in how they dress up and accessorize. They skies may be gray, but people erupt in vibrant hues of color. The phiran remains the same, but the colors have become vivacious. The winter is not just associated with white anymore. A perfect way to balance between tradition and modernity, comfort and style, there is no better way to beat the winter chill while looking fab at the same time!
Visit Kashmir and you just cannot afford to miss this beautiful called Pahalgam. Often referred to as mini Switzerland or the Valley of Shepherds, this beautiful place is perched between the breathtaking Sheshnag Lake and Lidder. Whether you want to go for a trek with your gang or get together with your family or simply lie under the warm bright sun, listening to the sound of the gushing water, this heavenly place has a whole wide range of activities to offer to its visitors.