Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you would probably know that the husband and I love trying out local vegetarian dishes wherever we travel to. We are suckers for exploring the foods popular at various destinations. We often bring back local ingredients (and sometimes recipes) from the places we visit, and using them in our home kitchen. This Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi that I’m going to write about today, is one such instance.

In the heart of what is known as ‘Old Srinagar’, in an area called Nowhatta, there stands a majestic specimen of Mughal-era architecture called the Jamia Masjid. We had a lovely time walking around the mosque, trying to fit the beautiful architecture into frames on my camera, from different angles. It was also a treat checking out the various little shops around the mosque, selling spices, apple chips and cockscomb and walnuts and different ingredients indigenous to Kashmir, clothes, tea sets, shoes and cutlery, among other things. It was at one of these little stores that I came across the Kashmiri black moth daal. I absolutely had to pick up some, to cook with later. From these shops, I also bought some beautiful Kashmiri ver masala and dried mint, all of which I have used in this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi.

The black moth daal from Kashmir is packed with various nutrients, and has an earthy taste to it. The Kashmiris typically use these lentils to make daal or cook it in combination with meat or vegetables. I decided to use them in this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi, a one-pot meal that is awesomely delish, very easy to make yet full of flavour.

Here’s how I made this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1/4 cup Kashmiri black moth daal
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. A small piece of Kashmiri ver masala
  6. 4 green chillies
  7. 1 medium-sized onion
  8. 1/4 cup shelled green peas
  9. 1 small capsicum
  10. 6-7 beans
  11. 2 medium-sized tomatoes
  12. 5-6 cloves garlic
  13. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  14. 1 tablespoon oil
  15. A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves
  16. 1 tablespoon dried mint


1. Soak the Kashmiri black moth daal for about 20 minutes in warm water. When done, drain out the excess water and keep aside.

2. Peel the ginger and garlic. Grind them to a paste in a mixer. Keep aside.

3. Chop the onion length-wise. Peel and chop the carrots into batons. Remove strings from the beans and chop into batons. Chop the capsicum into cubes. Chop the tomatoes and coriander finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

4. Mix the Kashmiri ver masala in a little water, until completely dissolved. Keep aside.

5. Wash the rice well under running water, a couple of times. Drain out all the excess water. Keep aside.

5. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the chopped onions, carrot, beans and capsicum, the shelled green peas, and the ginger-garlic paste. Mix well. Saute on high flame for a minute or so.

6. Now, add the washed and drained rice and Kashmiri black moth daal to the pressure cooker.

7. Add in 3.5 cups of water, as well as salt to taste, the ver masala paste, the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and the turmeric powder. Mix well. Taste the water and adjust seasonings as needed.

8. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release manually.

9. When all the pressure has gone down, open the cooker and fluff up the khichdi. Mix in the dried mint and the finely chopped coriander.

10. Serve the Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi with plain curd or raita of your choice.


  1. I used Sona Masoori rice to make this khichdi. You can use any other type of rice you want to.
  2. Adjust the quantity of water, depending upon how grainy or soft you want the khichdi to be.
  3. If you don’t have dried mint powder, you can add in a few torn leaves of fresh mint to the rice while pressure cooking it.
  4. The Kashmiri black moth daal imparts a lovely earthy flavour to this khichdi. If you don’t have any, though, it can be replaced with whole masoor daal – soak it the same way for about 20 minutes and then add it to the pressure cooker.
  5. The Kashmiri ver masala is a mix of 60-70 ingredients, including oil, Kashmiri red chillies, garlic, shahjeera and cockscomb. I would not suggest omitting this or using any other masala in place of this, as it would alter the taste of the dish.
  6. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and Kashmiri ver masala you use, depending upon how spicy you want the khichdi to be.

Do try out this Kashmiri Black Moth Daal Khichdi, too! I’d love to hear how you liked it!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.



Chamba Chukh| Red Chilly Pickle From Himachal Pradesh

For this month’s Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, we food bloggers explored the cuisine of Himachal Pradesh, a land blessed with abundant natural beauty, with several beautiful indigenous foods.


About Himachali Cuisine

The cuisine of Himachal Pradesh is simple, yet hearty and flavourful, many of the foods fermented and slow-cooked. There is considerable influence from the neighbouring Jammu & Kashmir, Tibet and Punjab on the food of Himachal Pradesh.

Considering a variety of leafy greens and vegetables are tough to grow on the harsh terrain, the Himachalis residing on the high hills (say, in Spiti or Lahaul) depend heavily on rice, meat, hardy grains like buckwheat, millets and barley, as well as dried lentils. In the foothills, seasonal vegetables and greens are consumed aplenty, ,where they are relatively easier to grow. As you move towards the south of the state, you will find more and more people tending to livestock and undertaking agriculture as a way of life – here, the consumption of dairy products is also higher. Wherever you go in Himachal Pradesh, you will find an utter devotion to different varieties of tea, including one called Tchaku Cha, prepared with butter, salt and milk.

The Himachali Dham – a meal consisting of a several courses, typically prepared by the Brahmin cooks of Kangra Valley called botis – is perhaps the best known thing from this state. Chana or Rajma Madra, an aromatic rice that is served with a mixed-lentil daal and khatta, and Mitha Bhaat are some of the dishes that typically form part of a Himachali dham. The dham is reminiscent of the Kashmiri Wazwan – both are multi-course meals fit for kings, but while the Wazwan is predominantly non-vegetarian, the dham is entirely vegetarian. Legend has it that centuries ago, Jaisthambh, the then king of Himachal Pradesh was so fascinated by Kashmiri Wazwan that he ordered his cooks to prepare a similar multi-course, vegetarian meal – and that is how the dham came about.

Chamba Chukh

For this month’s Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, I was paired with the talented Sujata Roy, who blogs at Batter Up With Sujata. She allotted me the two secret ingredients of cumin and tamarind, and I used them to prepare Chamba Chukh, a fiery dried red chilli pickle from the Chamba Valley.

The chukh has several variations throughout Himachal Pradesh, I hear. It is made in slightly different ways in different homes, though the basic ingredients remain the same. These days, ready-made bottled chukh is available in stores too, with their own little variations. Some people add honey and lots of dried fruits and nuts to it, while some prefer keeping it quite hot with not a hint of sweetness. The version I made is hot too, but I tried to even it out by adding lots of lemon juice and some jaggery. The result was a delectable chukh, which makes for a beautiful accompaniment to rotis, idlis and dosas, a lovely spread for nachos, pizzas, sandwiches and rolls. I love how it jazzes up a dull dish, adds a zing to otherwise bland dishes. The chukh travels really well too, and can be stored for up to a month.


Here is how I made the Chamba Chukh.

Recipe Courtesy: Adapted from The Picky Bowl, with a few variations of my own

Ingredients (yields about 1 cup):

For the spice powder:

  1. 1 teaspoon dhania aka coriander seeds
  2. 1 teaspoon rai aka mustard seeds
  3. 1 teaspoon ajwain aka carom seeds
  4. 1 teaspoon methi dana aka fenugreek seeds
  5. 1 teaspoon jeera aka cumin seeds

Other ingredients:

  1. 1 cup dry red chillies
  2. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  5. 2 tablespoons amchoor powder
  6. 2-3 tablespoons jaggery, or to taste
  7. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  8. 10 fat garlic cloves
  9. Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
  10. 1/4 cup mustard oil
  11. 2 pinches of hing aka asafoetida


  1. Soak the dry red chillies in just enough water to cover them, for about 30 minutes.
  2. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for about 10 minutes. When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the tamarind and extract a thick juice from the tamarind. Add a little more water if necessary. Keep aside.
  3. Peel the ginger and garlic cloves. Chop up the ginger. Keep aside.
  4. Now, we will get the spice mix ready. Get a pan nice and hot, and then lower the flame to medium. Add in the coriander seeds, mustard, carom seeds, fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds. Dry roast the ingredients on medium flame till they begin to emit a lovely fragrance, taking care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate, and allow to cool down completely.
  5. When the spices have cooled down entirely, grind them into a powder in a mixer. Keep aside.
  6. Once the dry red chillies have soaked for about 30 minutes and have softened a bit, drain out all the water from them. Transfer them to a mixer jar and add in the chopped ginger and garlic cloves. Grind to a paste. Keep aside.
  7. Heat the mustard oil in a pan till it reaches smoking point. Now, lower the flame to medium. Add in the spice mix we prepared earlier. Let it stay in for a couple of seconds.
  8. Now, add the ground dry red chilly paste to the pan, along with salt to taste, amchoor powder, jaggery, asafoetida, turmeric powder and the extracted tamarind paste. Mix well.
  9. Cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes, stirring intermittently. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  10. Let the pickle cool down completely. Now, mix in the lemon juice well. Store in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle.


  1. Chamba chukh is typically made using mustard oil. I have used kacchi ghani mustard oil here.
  2. The amount of ginger and garlic I have used here was just perfect for our taste buds. You may use more or less of these ingredients, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
  3. Typically, sugar or honey is used to sweeten the Chamba chukh. I have used jaggery here, instead. If you want to keep the chukh fiery, you can skip the jaggery/sugar/honey altogether.
  4. Increase/decrease the quantity of lemon juice you use, depending upon your taste preferences.
  5. I have made this Chamba chukh tangier and sweeter than it traditionally is, to mitigate the spiciness, considering we don’t eat very spicy food at home.
  6. Some Himachalis also soak dry fruits – apricots, raisins and the like – in warm water for a while, grind them and add the same to the chukh. I haven’t.
  7. You may add 1 teaspoon fennel aka saunf to the spice mix, for more flavour. I skipped it.
  8. Typically, Kashmiri chillies or Himachali fresh green/red chillies are used to make this Chamba chukh. Here, I have used a mix of the hot, round Guntur chillies and the less spicy, long Bydagi chillies.
  9. Refrigerated in a clean, dry, air-tight container, the pickle stays for over a fortnight. Use only a clean, dry spoon to remove the chukh.

You like? I hope you will try out this Chamba Chukh recipe too, and that you will love it as much as we did!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Bread Pizza With Chutney| Indian-Style Pizza

I am the sort of person who always stocks a bottle of hot green chutney in her refrigerator. I make the chutney fresh weekly and store it – gorgeously green and fragrant with the mint, coriander, garlic, ginger, onion and lemon that goes into it – for use later. The husband and I absolutely adore this green chutney, and we love using it as a side to jazz up our meals. It makes for a great spread for sandwiches and wraps, and adds a whole lot of zing to chaats. I never thought of using it in a pizza, though, until CookingFromHeart posted about it on her Instagram feed. And, then, I absolutely had to go ahead and make it!

(Here are some dishes you can use the hot green chutney in: Haryana-Style Aloo Chutney Pulao, Ponk Bhel, Chaat Bruschetta, Bombay-Style Bhel Poori)

The Bread Pizza, before being loaded with cheese, before it goes into the oven!

I used whole wheat bread, my home-made hot green chutney, loads of veggies and a smattering of cheese to make the Indian-Style Pizza, and it turned out absolutely fantabulous! It was super-duper delicious and healthy (if you choose to ignore the cheese), and took minimal effort to make. This Bread Pizza makes for a wholesome dinner for busy weekdays or lazy weekends, when you want to cook something hearty without stressing yourself out too much.

Do try this out, will you? Check out the recipe!


  1. Slices of bread, as needed
  2. Hot green chutney, as needed (see Notes to know how to make this)
  3. Pitted, sliced olives, as needed
  4. Capsicum slices, as needed
  5. Chopped onion, as needed
  6. Seedless cucumber, chopped into rounds, as needed
  7. A few pieces of broccoli, chopped fine
  8. Grated cheese, as needed


  1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
  2. Toast the bread slices for 4-5 minutes, at about 170 degrees. They should turn slightly crisp.
  3. Spread the hot green chutney evenly on the toasted bread slices.
  4. Arrange the cucumber roundels, sliced onion and capsicum, broccoli pieces and olives evenly over the bread slices.
  5. Top the bread slices with grated cheese.
  6. Place the prepared bread slices back in the oven. Bake at about 170 degrees for 4-5 minutes or till the cheese melts and the veggies have slightly cooked.
  7. Serve hot.


  1. I have used whole wheat bread to make the base for this Indian-Style Pizza. You can use any variety of bread you prefer, or even home-made or store-bought pizza base.
  2. Here, I have used the vegetables that I had handy in my kitchen. You can use any veggies that you please. Zucchini, baby corn, sweet corn, mushrooms, tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes are some vegetables that would go well with this Indian-Style Pizza. I avoided using jalapenos on the pizza because the chutney I have used is already quite spicy.
  3. I have used Amul processed cheese to make this Indian-Style Pizza. You may use any variety of cheese that you prefer.
  4. Here is how I make the hot green chutney.
  5. I made this Bread Pizza in my Morphy Richards OTG. You can even make this on a dosa pan, on a gas stove.
  6. I have not mentioned the quantities for any of the ingredients here. You can use as much or as little of the ingredients as you prefer, depending upon your personal taste preferences.

I hope you will try out this Bread Pizza too, and that you will love it as much as we do!


Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for this week is ‘Recipes using bread’.

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Mixed Vegetable Roti With Home-Made Multi-Grain Atta

Mixed Vegetable Rotis are my go-to dish, for those times when I want to make something healthy and filling at home, but want to cook just one dish. They are super wholesome, because I make these rotis with home-made multi-grain atta and put tonnes of veggies into them. The Gujarati touch I add to these rotis – ground garlic, ginger and green chillies, sesame seeds, a bit of curd and sugar – take the flavour up several notches. Some shredded mint leaves and finely chopped coriander goes in there too, hiking up the taste quotient even further.

These Mixed Vegetable Rotis are a great way to use up those gorgeous vegetables you get in abundance in the winter months. I make them even on summer days with whatever veggies I can scrounge. They are a big-time favourite at home, even with the bub, and a tasty way of sneaking in vegetables into your loved ones’ diet too.

With a raita of your choice or just some plain curd, these rotis make for a hearty meal. We often have them with a lovely pickle, or baingan bharta.

Here’s how I make these Mixed Vegetable Rotis.

Ingredients (makes 15-18 rotis):

  1. 2 cups multi-grain atta (flour)
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 2 green chillies
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. A few stalks of fresh coriander (dhania) leaves
  6. A fistful of mint (pudina) leaves
  7. A small piece of cabbage
  8. 1 small carrot
  9. 3-4 big cauliflower florets
  10. 5-6 big spinach leaves
  11. 1 small radish
  12. Red chilli powder, to taste (optional)
  13. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (til)
  14. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  15. 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar or to taste (optional)
  16. 1/2 cup thick curd (optional)
  17. 2 tablespoons oil + a little more to make the rotis


  1. Take the multi-grain atta in a large mixing bowl. Add in the sesame seeds, salt, sugar (if using) and turmeric powder. Add in red chilli powder, if you want to make the rotis slightly spicy.
  2. Wash the ginger well, and peel off the skin. Chop finely. Chop the green chillies finely as well. Grind the ginger and green chillies together coarsely in a mixer. Add to the mixing bowl.
  3. Peel the carrot and the radish, and grate finely. Chop the spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, mint leaves and coriander finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and curd (if using) to the mixing bowl.
  5. Mix the ingredients in the mixing bowl well. Add water little by little, only if needed. Mostly the curd and oil and the water the vegetables let out should be enough to bind the dough. Make a firm but soft dough.
  6. Now, heat up a heavy tawa on high flame. When water droplets begin to dance on the tawa, reduce the flame to medium.Meanwhile, make small balls out of the dough. Roll out one dough ball into a roti.
  7. Place the roti on the tawa. Let it cook on one side, and then flip it over. Spread a little oil on the cooked side of the roti, and a little around it. Let it cook evenly on the other side as well. When both sides are well cooked, transfer the roti to a serving plate. Serve hot with or without an accompaniment.
  8. Use all the balls of dough to make rotis, in a similar manner. Serve hot, with curd, raita of your choice or a nice pickle.


  1. If you don’t have multi-grain atta, you can use store-bought or home-made whole wheat flour to make these rotis.
  2. You can coarsely crush the ginger and green chillies using a mortar and pestle, instead of grinding them in the mixer.
  3. Use the red chilli powder only if you think the heat from the ginger and green chillies will not be enough for your tastebuds.
  4. You may skip the sugar and/or curd if you want to.
  5. Coarsely crushed garlic cloves can be added to the dough as well. So can chopped fenugreek greens (methi).
  6. You can add in grated turnip to the dough, instead of the radish.

You like? I hope you will try out these Mixed Vegetable Rotis, and that you will love them as much as we do!

I’m sending this recipe to Fiesta Friday #226. The co-hosts this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Dodh-E-Pather Aka Doodhpatri, The Valley Of Milk

In other news, we just got back from a week-long holiday in and around Srinagar, Kashmir. We had been considering a few destinations to go to before the bub’s summer holidays ended, which wouldn’t kill us with sunstroke, where the bub could enjoy herself and so could we. We finally zeroed in on Srinagar, and hooked up with a travel agent in the city. Working with them, I built a slightly off-beat itinerary than the done-to-death Srinagar sightseeing-Gulmarg-Pahalgam-Sonamarg plan that most tourists undertake. We have already done that in the past.

This time around, we wanted to venture deeper into Srinagar, dig into local food and experiences, and explore a couple of lesser-known destinations around the city. While I wouldn’t say we got exactly the kind of holiday we wanted, it was still a beautiful trip – we did visit some gorgeous places and made memories that will last a long, long, long time to come.

Here I am, with the first installment of travel stories from Kashmir – about our visit to a spot called Doodhpatri.


When the husband, the bub and I embarked on our drive to Doodhpatri, some 40-odd kilometers away from Srinagar (where we were staying), little did we know that we would absolutely fall in love with the place. Neither did we know that Doodhpatri would force us to think deep and hard about human nature.

Located in the district of Budgam, Doodhpatri is a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous place. Think meandering meadows full of cows, sheep and goats. Think truckloads of soft green grass with very few people around. Think snow-clad mountains and freezing cold. Think natural springs and pine trees. Think nomadic shepherds tending their flocks and their squat mud huts. Exactly, that kind of place. Doodhpatri is not as well-known to travellers as, say, Gulmarg or Pahalgam, and has only recently started seeing tourist influx. As a result, the place still remains largely untouched, pristine, uncommercial – this also means that there are no restaurants of note or tourist activities of note here. There is a lot of virgin natural beauty, though, much to explore for the non-touristy traveller.

Locally called Dodh-e-Pather, the name of the place literally translates to ‘Valley of Milk’. The cattle here are renowned for the plentiful, rich milk (doodh) they yield, which is what gives the place its name.

A shepherd tending his flocks, at Doodhpatri

It is an almost 2-hour drive from Srinagar to Doodhpatri, the road not in the best of condition at places, but decent enough. As you near Doodhpatri, signs of city life grow lesser and lesser, the vistas grow wider and greener, and the views become more and more stunning. When the snow-capped mountains come closer, they almost take your breath away.

Our first sight of the snow-capped mountains and the gorgeous green plains of Doodhpatri

A few sharp curves and turns later, you come to a point beyond which no vehicles can go. Walk for a few minutes, and you reach a gurgling spring, the water milky white, humming along over rocks that have turned smooth with wear.

The beautiful spring at Doodhpatri

We spent a couple of hours at this point, just winding down, talking, eating, taking pictures and gazing at all the beauty around us. This is a hot spot for selfie lovers and photographers alike. You may even choose to don the Kashmiri costumes available for hire at the couple of make-shift stalls here, and get a photoshoot done.

The milky white waters of the spring at Doodhpatri

The rustic wooden bridge across the spring stole my heart away. It surely was something straight out of a dream!

The rustic bridge that had me charmed

You can cross the bridge and walk along the plains beyond, soaking in the pure air and the prettiness of nature around you, or you could let a pony take you there. There is no dearth of horsemen here, who will plead and haggle with you to hire them for a look-around Doodhpatri on pony-back.

A bunch of horsemen in their traditional pherans, waiting for tourists to hire their ponies

Considering that the bub wasn’t too well when we visited Doodhpatri and the terrain looked quite rough too, we decided to skip the pony ride. We contented ourselves with just gazing out at the spring, snapping pictures of this and that. That, in itself, is quite an experience, let me tell you.

A barbecue guy we came across at Doodhpatri

There isn’t a single proper restaurant in Doodhpatri, like I was saying earlier, thanks to it not really being on the tourist grid. There are just a couple of shops here selling tea, coffee, chips, Maggi and the likes.

In fact, I hear the road we drove on did not extend till the stream, two years ago or so. One would have to get down at a certain point and hike a few kilometres to reach the stream! Now, considering increasing tourist interest in Doodhpatri, the road has been laid out further.

A small shop selling refreshments at Doodhpatri. I was charmed by just how pretty this shop looked!

There is a sharp drop in temperatures at Doodhpatri when it rains or when the mountain winds blow. In winters, the snow makes the place practically unlivable. The place, therefore, remains open only about 8-9 months a year. For 2 or 3 months every year – in the winters – the winding roads to Doodhpatri become inaccessible due to all the ice on them, and the place is therefore shut off. No one comes here then, not even the semi-nomadic Gujjar shepherds. There is no permanent structure here which is in use throughout the year – neither a home nor a shop nor a tourist activity.

A Gujjar hut at Doodhpatri

You will find the small, squat mud huts of the Gujjars – the famous wandering shepherds of Kashmir – at Doodhpatri. These shepherds wander the mountains and plains of Kashmir with their flocks of sheep, horses, goats and cows in the winters, trying to find grass for them. They perform odd jobs – building construction and the likes – to earn some money.

In the summers, they build houses on the mountains and stay put for a few months with their families.

A small Gujjar hut that we came across at Doodhpatri

When we visited, some of these Gujjars were selling snacks and refreshments for the tourists out of their huts. We walked along, fascinated by the structures, fascinated by the typical Kashmiri snacks some of them were offering.

A stall selling the large traditonal pooris of Kashmir, called Khajla, which is typically eaten with semolina halwa. In the background are the dried pea-pakoras that are commonly available across Kashmir.

Neither the husband nor I had ever tried out the halwa-poori combination before, and we went on to do just that at Doodhpatri. My, it was mind-blowing – bites of the Khajla filled with the halwa!

We were snacking on some beautiful Maggi noodles cooked with vegetables at one such home when we noticed a sudden drop in the temperature. All too quickly, the wind started howling (that eerie way the wind has of howling in the mountains!) and the plastic chairs around us began to crash to the ground (I am not exaggerating!). It began to turn finger-numbingly cold, and the jackets and caps we were carrying with us offered no protection at all. The bub began to shiver. The Gujjar shepherd whose shop we were eating at was quick to invite us inside his house. We gratefully accepted.

The little fireplace inside the Gujjar home we visited

Inside, the hut was warm as toast. The man’s wife was busy cooking lunch for their family, and the wood fire was working wonders. I don’t know what did it – the thick, hand-made mud walls or the structure of the hut or the wood fire – but it was gorgeous inside. It was a cocoon, a separate world in its own. The howling winds outside did not even touch the inside of the house. The lack of electricity and the bare minimum of possessions inside the house kind of stunned us – it was a stark reminder of just how much we urbane folk cling to our worldly possessions day in and day out.

The family invited us to stay for lunch or at least for some tea, but we refused as we had already eaten. We did spend quite a bit of time sitting with them, chatting, warming our hands on the kangri (Kashmiri coal brazier) they were generous enough to share with us.

The kangri that saved us from frostbite in Doodhpatri

The husband and I had so many questions for the family and their way of life, and they were happy to respond to every single one of them. Snippets of the conversation still refuse to go out of my mind.

Hum 6 mahine yahan rehte hain, is ghar mein. Sardi mein 6 mahine hum parbat ke niche rehte hain.. majdoori karte hain..gay bakri charate hain.. kaam karte hain..,” the man told us. (‘We stay here, in this house, for 6 months. For the 6 months around winter, we stay in the foothills. We undertake labour and other odd jobs, tend to our cows and goats.’)

Yahan pe kuch nahi milta. Paani, aata, sabzi.. sab kuch neeche se le ke aate hain.. yahan par bahut zyaada thand padti hai na?,’ his wife said. (‘There is nothing available here. Water, flour, vegetables.. we get all of it from the foothills.. It’s too cold here, no?’)

Raat ko hamari gay aur bakri ghar ke andar rehte hain.. subah hote hi bahar chhod dete hain… woh chalte rehte hain, aur hum bhi saath chalte hain..,’ the man said. (‘We keep our cows and goats inside the house in the nights. As soon as morning dawns, we set them free. They walk around everywhere, and we walk around after them.’)

Chalna humare liye badi baat nahi hai. Humein aadat hai. Gulmarg se Doodhpatri ho ya Pahalgam se Sonamarg, hum chaltein hain..,’ the man stated. (‘Walking is not a big thing for us. We are used to it. From Gulmarg to Doodhpatri or fro Pahalgam to Sonamarg, we can walk.’)

The conversation was nothing short of enlightening. It set us thinking.

How hard would a life like this be, where you need to walk for kilometres on end just to fetch clean drinking water?

How many of the little things in my life I take for granted? Can I live a simple life like this, or am I too addicted to the complexities of my life?

How did these people cope up with so much hardship? Every single day? Did they even feel it was hard?

What makes these people stick to their roots? Do they ever wonder about the world beyond these hills?

Do they ever think about moving to an easier place, an easier way of living? Or does that thought never even cross their minds?

How different these people’s lives are from mine! And yet, we are all the same at the core of us – humans.

I don’t have the answers yet.


Notes for travellers:

  1. Doodhpatri is a drive of about 2 hours from Srinagar. There are okay-ish roads some part of the way, while the roads in other parts are decent.
  2. It would be a good idea to carry some snacks/food while you visit Doodhpatri.
  3. Private cabs are the best way to reach Doodhpatri. You can hire one from Srinagar, where the nearest airport is located.
  4. The weather gets quite chilly at Doodhpatri at times, especially while it rains. You might want to carry a change of clothes, warm clothes, umbrellas and/or raincoats when you visit Doodhpatri.
  5. Pony riding is quite common among tourists, to see the sights in and around Doodhpatri. Walking everywhere might not always be possible. I would suggest going ahead with pony riding only if you are comfortable with the idea – there’s no fun in it if you do it half-heartedly or when you are scared.
  6. If you do decide to undertake a pony ride for sight-seeing, please do decide on the rates with the horsemen beforehand. Bargain if necessary, to fix a decent rate.

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