Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dave Watson in Kashmir


The skiing here in Gulmarg, Kashmir, India has been great. Typical high pressure over the Pir Panjal mountains has given us blazing sun, mild temps and big smiles. Views of Nanga Parbat’s Rupal face are seen between face shots and the twin pyramids of Nun and Kun beg for a future visit. Now as a series of small storms move through the area we have some down time to find out what is going on in the rest of the world. Gulmarg is so peaceful and mellow, I sometimes forget about the struggles of the people that live in the valley.
Kashmir is the site of the longest standing land conflict in history. India, Pakistan and China all claim Kashmir as their own, and because of this, there is a heavy military presence. It is not uncommon to load the gondola and have a soldier squeeze in beside you with an AK-47 over his shoulder.

A while back the Indian army was blocking the entrance to a mosque in Srinagar, naturally there was a protest. A young man was killed by soldiers and the protest escalated into a riot. Over the past week there have been several instances where violence has broken out throughout the city and even in the surrounding villages resulting in more deaths.

Up in the mountains we don’t hear of these things and we certainly don’t have to deal with these matters. In the world we create for ourselves it is easy to become self-absorbed and not pay attention to the hardship of others in far off lands. Here in the villages, life is hard. It is apparent as we ski down through these villages just how different our lives are, fat skis, gore-tex, ipods, expensive airfare all for a selfish pursuit of pleasure as they deal with damaged crops, insufficient medical care, cold homes and soldiers imposing on their freedoms. Saddening to think that so many people live like this and makes one feel super lucky (and foolishly lame) that our concerns are with where the good snow is and not where the next meal is coming from.

Kashmir is an interesting place, incredible natural beauty, friendly people, extreme poverty. I first came here to ski down powdery mountain faces. As I spend more time here, my personal skiing has become a distant concern. Trying to find an effective and self sustaining way to help the locals has become the primary focus. Promoting tourism and training local ski guides has been a good start, but I hope to find a way to have a positive impact on a larger portion of the population.

- Dave Watson

1 comment:

Andrea Charest said...

Dave-- moving blog post. Crazy how the world can be so imbalanced. Hope all is going well training guides so that more locals may be able to play in the terrain surrounding them...! Best~ Andrea & Steve