1/20/49 - The Vale of Kashmir BY-WAYS - 1/20/49 - The Vale of Kashmir

Are you a bit weary of the same old town? The same old scenery, the same old climate? Then come with me to the Vale of Kashmir, where we shall find the most beautiful scenery in the world. The climate is just about flawless; and life is colorful and serene. One of the young women living at the YWCA is partner in a most interesting enterprise. It is a "season" of lectures - a series of illustrated talks on the wonders of this amazing world of ours. At last I got down to the Masonic Temple, where they are presented every Sunday afternoon. Now I realize what I have been missing all these weeks. Next to travelling to these places, this is surely the best way to "visit" the other half of the world. Deane Dickinson, world traveller and lecturer, took these pictures just before the war. Because of a faulty shutter on his new camera, he had to make a second trip and do it all over again - at a cost of $3,400. The vale - or valley - of Kashmir was once a great lake. "Kashmir" means "Water dried up." But that is not quite true of this lovely valley, for there are many lakes and waterways, blue as sapphire. Mr. Dickinson said that, if he might choose the ideal place to live, it would be either Kashmir or southern New Zealand. Which speaks volumes for the climate, since there are no bathtubs, and the unwashed natives smell to high heaven. In this lush paradise, where lies the richest soil in the world, the people still do everything the hard way. We saw women washing their clothes by slapping them on stones in the river, the men threshed their wheat in much the same manner - only not in the river. Their system of irrigation is definitely not a la California, but rather consists of lugging heavy vessels of all kinds. One ingenious fellow whose garden lay adjacent to a spring or well, had rigged up the rope and pulley system, using both hands to pull the rope and his left foot to steer and tip the big kettle. One gains the impression that the men, at least, are quite industrious. We saw men making bricks out of clay by packing the mud in a rectangular box, turning the mold out carefully to dry in the sun. These sun-dried bricks do not last too well; their large dwellings are always crumbling in decay. In the lowlands of Kashmir the men with their oxen may be seen working their rice fields. Again the oxen may be seen pulling a primitive plow.

Right here I would like to inject the reason for the "sacred cow." Many of the customs of India grow out of sheer necessity, or at least from that greatest of human instinct, self-preservation. The cow has become sacred because it is vital to the needs of the farm folk. To be practical, a cow is too valuable to kill off. The child marriages in India grow out of the same need for preservation of their race. In ancient times ravaging hordes of warrior men would sweep down on helpless India and make off with her beautiful women. It seems that even these licentious brutes had their own moral code; not to take married women. The people of India saw to it that their girls became "married women" at a very early age. I wish you might have shared with me the beauty of the flowers in Kashmir. Many of them are the same as ours, such as pansies, poppies, zinnias, etc. But they are so large and brilliant. The water lilies are out of this world. In the city of Srinagar are the famous floating gardens. In the old days the Moghul emperors were rowed past these gardens in stately procession; now the beautiful little lakes and rivers carry leisurely and colorful houseboats on their bosoms. Mr. Dickinson says that lolling on the upper deck of a houseboat is the last word in luxurious ease.

The women are quite camera-shy, but Mr. D. bribed a few into having their pictures taken. The girl students in a missionary school were most attractive; the dark eyes are so beautiful, while their skin seems quite fair. But oh, the awful-looking men! Dark, dirty, unshaven. Yet they turn out the finest creative work possible. You should see their fingers fly as they sit in a row and embroider those exquisite shawls. They also do very artistic work in papier mache. For all their primitive ways they have a droll sense of humor, as attested by the signs they put up in their booths, where they sell their wares. Of course they have copied from the tourists, or have taken unquestioningly the advice of their prankish mentors. Such names as "Simple Simon," "Crazy Joe," "World's Worst," "death-dealing Sam," "Happy Charlie," and "Admirable Pete" - attract the tourist trade.

Now the column grows lengthy, but another time I would like to tell you a few more things about these people. I hope you have enjoyed this third class trip.

Florence B. Taylor

Next - 2/3/49 - A New Year's Poem. Bill Robinson
BY-WAYS Table of Contents