fifteen minutes before we are taking the metro to kashmiri gate in delhi, our french friend that we met in delhi, constanz, stop us and gave us a mission to find her friend, majeed, a kashmiri guy living in dharamsala. this mission somehow then shaped the experience of our stay in dharamsala.
we arrived in mcleod ganj, accidentally staying at a kashimiri hotel. we started our first conversation in dharamsala with the kashmiri guys at the hotel, asking around trying to find this majeed out of around 800 kashmiri population in dharamsala. another coincidence was that the first day of our arrival, all the tibetan shops were closed due to the immolation happening in tibet. so we end up entering kashmiri shops asking for majeed.
it turns out that there are two majeed in dharamsala. we met the first majeed, who owns a jewelry store. we had our first cup of kahwa (kashmiri tea) there and find out the guy that we are looking for is the other majeed. so the first majeed son took us to the other majeed friend, rafiq, at another kashmiri shop in the other street.
rafiq is majeed best friend. he made a call to majeed’s number in kashmir and we finally finding majeed by phone. he was at srinagar at that time and not coming to dharamsala anytime soon. but majeed was so happy to hear from us about constanz. magically majeed would somehow take care us just by phone while we were staying in dharamsala.
we end up having chai with rafiq (which would be the custom in every kashmiri shop we crash in). we had a long chat with rafiq, he was a really nice guy. gave us extra discount when we were falling in love with the most warmest cutest kashmiri glove at his shop. believe me it was such a life saver in the middle north indian winter. he also borrowed us a pheran which we can return later when we are going home. a pheran is a kashmiri traditional clothing, it looks like a long wollen coat, very warm for the winter climate. this loose clothing allow them to carry hot water bottle or an earthen pots with burning coal. they jokingly call it the kashmiri winter’s wife.
majeed took care of us by phone. told us to meet up with his friend fayaz who own the akash hotel in mcleod ganj. the next day we met fayaz and moona, end up having a long chat and stay late at the hotel living room. we move to akash in our third day and spend our days having long chat with different kind of people in their hotel living room. we even cooked indonesian food in our last days at the akash kitchen. moona took the hassle in trying to find a halal chicken for us to cook and taking us to the lower dharamsala, although the shop was close and i end up making a pot of potato coconut curry and deep fried eggplants which tasted good with sambal matah. i baked banana with ghee, sprinkled them with shredded cheese and condensed milk. it tasted heaven for our desert. moona took the liking of sambal matah and learn to make them, he accomplish making them the next morning.
rafiq teaches us how to differentiate the kashmiri saffron. this is going to be such a reference for the guys in forumrempah back home. we made a small video on it. i wish to see a saffron plantation one day in kashmir. the owner of lucky thangka, also a kashmiri, basically explain and happily show us his collection. it was like a mind-blowing exhibition. we thank majeed for all of this.
the whole experience felt funny. i felt like talking to the kejawen guys (the traditional javanese belief) while talking to the kashmiri guys. often i found that our conversation turn out to be rather sufistic. living most of my life in the most populated moslem country and living in the moslem adapted culture, the kashimiri felt like brothers. majeed called us now and then to make sure we are fine. hopefully in our next trip to india we can go to srinagar in kashmir and meet majeed in his queen sheba boat. majeed last word to abmi when we were in the airport was “i don’t know why i’m telling you this, but there are two important things in life. first is will power and the second is balance.”
insya allah, one day we can make a small video title: (finally) finding majeed in srinagar :)
rafiq at his shop | lower dharamsala market place | akash living room | moona and abmi | kashmiri saffron | the kashmiri boys playing at the hotel