As winter ends, blossoms herald spring in Kashmir
Srinagar: Like a typical Kashmiri, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has not missed noticing the first blossom of spring after one of Kashmir Valley's most bitter winters.
"The blossom-laden trees are the best part of spring in the Valley. Watch this space for more soon", Omar posted on his micro blogging twitter site, adding a picture of the first almond blossom.
With light purple, white and crimson mixed with magical precision, the flower-laden almond trees are simply mesmerising.
"For someone seeing them for the first time, the spectacle is breathtaking," said Neha, 29, who has come with her husband Akash on the couple's honeymoon to the Valley.
It would be some time before all the almond trees in the Valley come to bloom, yet a majority of trees in Srinagar's 'Badam Vaer' (Almond Garden) are already a riot of colours.
There is both tradition and nostalgia for the 1.13 million residents of Srinagar city attached with the 'Badam Vaer'.
"It would be the first outing of the year for all of us. The entire family would rush to Badam Vaer with food, tea and bread with the arrival of spring.
"Folk singer groups spread all over the huge garden would entertain the people. We would always look forward to the visit. Some would even get new clothes for the occasion. Men, women and children all would enjoy going to the garden," recalled 80-year old Sharief-ud-Din of old city Srinagar.
Though the appeal and importance of Badam Vaer is unknown to the younger generations of locals, yet many of them are returning to their roots with a rebound.
"It is our duty to preserve and relive the tradition. Losing Badam Vaer would be losing our heritage", said Suhail, 17, a resident of uptown city.
It is not just the almond blossoms that herald the change of season in Kashmir. Endless oilseed fields in yellow bloom in the countryside are a treat for holidayers and picnic seekers.
Massive constructions are on in the Kashmir countryside on agricultural lands, despite a ban on conversion of these lands for any other purpose.
Some of the world's best cherries still come from Kashmir and the cherry trees are also laden with white flowers these days.
The buzz of the honey bees gathering nectar from flowering fruit trees is another sure sign for the locals to give up wearing the warm over-garment known as the 'Pheran'.
"I still need to wear my Pheran in the mornings and the evenings. Yes, the 'Kangri' (earthen firepot woven in willow wicker) can safely be kept in the store room now," said Ghulam Nabi, 69, a retired headmaster.
While everybody is enjoying the fragrance of the spring blooms, the wise and the circumspect are worried about the future generations.
"If the present pace of mindless construction and competition for house building continues, Kashmir would soon be a concrete jungle. Almond and cherry blossoms, mustard fields and the buzz of the honey bees would be relegated to the textbooks for posterity.
"Omar Abdullah's tweet indicates he knows the beauty and magic of the spring blossoms. He must do something to preserve our heritage," said Master Habibullah, 70, resident of Omar Abdullah's Ganderbal constituency.