Thanksgiving 2013 – Srinagar, Kashmir, India

thanksgiving-2013-srinagar_kashmir_india

Thanksgiving 2013 – Srinagar, Kashmir

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it encourages mindfulness of positive things. Nothing beats sitting back and passing the time by counting my blessings with a full belly. Being thankful is showing gratitude for what you have, and gratitude is like a magic trick for making happiness appear. I believe that by being grateful for what we have, the universe rewards us with more things to be greatful for. If life were a video game, gratitude would be the cheat code for infinite lives. It’s just too easy.

Onward to my Thanksgiving 2013 post!

I spent Thanksgiving 2013 in Srinagar Kashmir. Kashmir is a disputed territory that is a state of India, but acts like a country of its own. The people of Kashmir identify themselves as Kashmiri and the culture probably resembles neighboring Pakistan more than India. Islam has been present in Kashmir for more than 700 years and the population is about 75% Muslim.

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Jamia Masjid mosque built in 1400AD in the old city of Srinagar, Kashmir.

I’ve spent my days with a Kashmiri family in their home learning about their way of life.

The house is always bustling with activity and if I’m not in my beautiful room, then there’s no chance in being alone. I’m staying in a large house with a ton of people whose relationship to my host I can’t figure out. Besides the 3 generations of family living here, people come and go, stay and leave, smoke and chat, eat and drink, or cheer on India during the big cricket match. Because of that, I don’t even know how many people are living in this 3 story home.

There are a whole slew of characters that you could build a sitcom around. There’s Shalfie the tailor and self identified crazy man. His family has been in the business for over 700 years and he’s like a computer with historical facts about Kashmir. Latif, who I only knew as uncle Paulie for quite some time is a sort of helper around the house. He’s a jolly looking man who will serve tea, fetch stuff from town, or just nap on the floor until he’s needed. Then there’s the old father who I think has alzheimer’s or dementia. He just wanders around all day really slowly, picking up random things, spitting on stuff, and making friendly gestures at people. Sanjid is the guy who runs the guest house. He’s related to everyone somehow and is kind of the glue to it all.

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And then there’s the family car.

Besides Kashmiri, Urdu, and Hindi, most people speak English to some degree¬†and it’s possible to have conversations about anything. We’ve talked about the beauty of Kashmir, the rich history of the place, the politics, economy, and weather. We’ve also talked about what life is like for each of us, where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and what we hope for the future. Our talks happen over cups of tea while we all sit on huge patterned rugs that cover the floor from wall to wall.

There’s even 2 dogs, John and Sam, who hang around the yard all day doing whatever dogs do. They live off of leftover rice and their love for each other. They’re always together and take turns licking the other’s ear. They’ll let you pet them all day long if you want to and they look like the happiest dogs in all of India.

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John laying on Sam.

I’ve become close with one of the men living here, Aarif. He and his wife live here with 3 daughters. I’ve been building him a website and teaching him about online branding. Because of that I’ve spent the most time with him. When he goes out to run errands, I sometimes go. He has shown me his property both in the mountains and near Srinagar and told me about his visions for them. I’ve gone to his favorite yogurt shop, his friend’s mobile phone store, and I even went to visit someone in the hospital with him.

Aarif said I’m part of the family now. “After 3 days you’re no longer a guest” he told me. I’ve been here for about 10. Even the women in the house, whom have remained mostly quiet with me have started to open up. One of his daughter’s I’ve learned speaks and writes English really well. She’s also taking accounting and computer classes in the evening. I’m going to teach her how to run her father’s website when I leave.

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Aarif and his youngest daughter.

If I were spending Thanksgiving with my family back home we’d be eating turkey on the couch, probably having a couple of beers, and watching some football. I’d tell them how thankful I am for them and all of the opportunities they gave me. We’d talk about stuff that people talk about in these situations and I’d be thankful to spend time with them.

I spent thanksgiving with my family in their home in Srinagar, Kashmir. We sat on the floor atop a Kashmiri rug and ate rice and gobi, drank salty Kashmiri chai, and watched India play South Africa in the big cricket match. I was thankful that I found a place to be where I could surround myself with such good people. We talked about stuff that people talk about in those situations and I was thankful that I’ve been able to see such an intimate perspective of their lives.

Part of my family in Kashmir.

Part of my family in Kashmir.

Then the old man handed me a baby’s shoe, a spoon, and shook my hand with a smile. I took it as him welcoming me to the family as well.

  • Doc

    Seems a perfect fit. Chuck Manley and his new family in Kashmir. And I almost feel like I’m there with you. You have become a great story teller. And you have such great stories to tell!
    Look forward to your next post sir!

    • http://chuckmanley.com/ Chuck Manley

      Not a “new” family. That would imply that others are being replaced. Maybe “another” family would be a better fit.

  • yogi

    Chuck Manley is a great person to be with he helped us in all the way he can and he made us a very beautifull web site for our Rao Bika ji camel safari, a perfect web site all my friends and family loved it my home in Bikaner is always open for you. Your most welcome here.