Headline, April 18 2021/ ''' '' KASHMIR KARMA KISSING '' '''


 KISSING '' '''

''KASHMIR : LIKE A BEAUTIFUL DREAM!'' Yahooed Student Nihad - but before she plunged down, she looked over her shoulder at her friend Ishani Jamawal, another college student, and yelled out : ''How does it look from here?''

'' Like a beautiful dream,'' Ms. Jamwal yelled back. ''I don't want to blink.''

Each day, skiers of all abilities pile out of buses and battered Indian jeeps. They take their place at the gondola station where they are transported through the clouds to a ridgeline that looks out over the Kashmir Valley.

As a soft snowfall blanketed everything around her, Nihad Ashraf Khan, a college student who had been cooped up for months because of the pandemic, ran up to her attic and almost frantically grabbed for her skis, poles, boots and goggles - and headed immediately for the Himalayas.

While other ski slopes around the world have suffered because of the coronavirus, Gulmarg is having one of its busiest seasons ever. By mid-March the resort has already drawn 160,000 people, nearly 10 times as many as last year and far more than in any other season for at least three decades.

Every year, Gulmarg, one of Asia's largest and highest ski resorts attracts thousands of skiers who are drawn by perfect powder, cheap hotels, breathtaking views and feeling of an island of peace inside an often restive territory.

The more experienced skiers prefer the resorts wilder slopes, running miles through sunlit cedar trees. The luckiest skiers - or the unluckiest ones, depending on how you feel about wildlife - may run into snow leopards or brown bears on the way down.

In somewhat earlier times, Gulmarg was both a glittering winter playground and a window to another, wider world. Every foreign tourist was known as an ''angreez'' - an Urdu word often used for foreigners - and we would line up in our pherans - heavy wooden cloaks - to watch them ski. We did not understand the language they spoke, but we liked watching them.

These days, with India not accepting foreign tourists yet, more skiers are local. Among them are some of India's wealthy whose winter escapes to Thailand or Dubai have also been thwarted by international travel restrictions.

But what is perhaps most striking about Gulmarg's appeal now is that it lies squarely in Kashmir, a territory claimed by India and Pakistan and haunted by a long history of conflict.

Freedom fighters have long fought to break the territory away from India and either join Pakistan or become an independent state. But India isn't letting go.

It has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops and, in 2019, the Indian government the Kashmir region of its autonomy, which left even those siding with India feeling betrayed, disillusioned and disenfranchised.

Streets in Kashmir are filled with Indian soldiers. One recent afternoon, Kashmiris were forced to stand in ling lines, in the heart of Srinagar, with their hands up, waiting to be frisked by soldiers, part of a security routine that residents say is humiliating.

The ski resort, a few miles from the Line of Control, which divides India and Pakistan in Kashmir, is surrounded on all sides by Indian forces. Visitors encounter police officers before entering Gulmarg, who search cars and scan passengers.

Still, this was the ski town of my youth, with a few changes. The governmental rental shops once offered just a dozen low-grade skis.

Now it has a wide chance of world-class equipment. And today you can ride a gondola running along the Apharwar mountains, one of the highest cable cars in the world, at 13,800 feet.

The resort economically supports 20,000 local residents and 40 hotels. This year, because of the spike in demand, a double room that used to go for $50 costs $200, and many skiers are packing into them, five to a room.

There are still some foreigners around. They make the town their home during the ski season, which can last into April.

Brian Newman, a skier from Colorado, is the head of Gulmarg's ski patrol. His job includes instructing crews on where to place dynamite to trigger man-made avalanches to prevent natural ones.

''There is something magical about this place,'' said Ms. Fanny Godara, a French businesswoman who runs a restaurant. ''You want to come back, again and again.

''It's not a world class resort,'' Mr. Newman said. But , he said, ''it is special'' because of the wide open terrain and amazing vistas.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Magical Places of the World, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Sameer Yasir and Jeffrey Gettleman.

With respectful dedication to the People of Kashmir, Leaders, Grandparents, Parents, Students, Professors and Teachers, and then the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

''' Magical- Mutate '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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