Mystical Mountains and the River Road

Like the magician of fable whose soul resided elsewhere, I feel my soul wanders the mystical mountains of Kashmir.

Zumurrud kih dawr murassa ba murvarid – the emerald set in pearls – is how one poet described the verdant Kashmir valley surrounded on all sides by snow-covered Himalayan peaks, and one would be hard pressed to find words more appropriate.

I feel a stab of longing every time I gaze at the peaks that ring the valley on all sides. As every visitor to Kashmir knows, that would mean pretty much every upward glance whenever I am outdoors. In younger days, I spent many a late summer wandering these lofty wildernesses and the desire to attain them again is like a physical ache.

With far more eloquence than I can ever hope to achieve, a traveller from a bygone age seems to have somehow divined my memories and put them to paper. Join me as he guides us on a magical journey that he calls the river-road:

the jehlum is a most elusive river, and it comes by a thousand roads – ten thousand, said the ancients. … the merry ripples dancing over the frequent shallows, the lapping of its wavelets against the side of your boat speak a most enchanting language, blotting out all the world you have left behind you and luring you on to follow further the road by which it has come … if you listen to their eager, swift beguiling, they will lead you very far, by ways of exquisite beauty and utter desolation….

….at first, perhaps, you will be led through dewy pasture land, where the pine trees are wreathed with wild climbing roses, whose white and pink blossoms overhang the stream…

….later you will go through the deep "green glooms" of the still fir forests, opening out sometimes into sunny glades, where, over the fallen tree-trunks, breaks a wave of forget-me-nots of the palest blue, and here the stream flashes down in a spray of silver, or lies deep in swirling, jade-green pools, its voice no longer the whisper in which first it breathed the secrets of its distant source, but a triumphant chant of rejoicing, filling the lonely forest and drowning all lesser music….

….it will lead you higher, to where, above the level of the birch trees, lie silver meadows, frosted thick with small white anemones, where the stream flows through rocky gorges, swept always by an icy wind, which adds its voice to the torrent, grown almost too awe-inspiring in these desolate heights for mere human understanding…

….higher still it will lead you, till, under the deep sapphire sky, you stand in a vast snowy silence, where even the voice of the water is hushed. far down under the snow it listens, perhaps, to a music too rare and exquisite for mortal ears, to translate afterwards some syllables of its magic to the world below…

….those who have followed up one of the mountain streams which lead you into the heart of this "abode of snow," will understand how like treachery it would seem to disclose an exact route, to measure and map and lay out marches through all that loveliness which was for you alone, and into which you wandered almost by accident. if your fate is good and you can face the difficulty, you will find for yourself the end of the river-road.