A Weekend in KHYBER RESORT, Gulmarg
“Gulmarg? That’s too close to the line of control”, argued my dad - this being one of his million reasons against mum and I from taking our mother-daughter trip to Gulmarg on my birthday. He would come up with a reason every 10 minutes, very adorably conveying his reluctance. As I looked excitedly at the picture of Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa - a picture that made me want to visit Gulmarg, from a nano second of a glance while I was mundanely scrolling through my Instagram feed, the classic ding alert on my laptop went on. It was an email from the reservations department at the Khyber Resort. Taken aback by the hostility in response to my email requesting for details regarding the airport transfer and my preferred room view, my excitement quickly reduced to a minus 1. Not quite fancying the trip as I initially did, mum and I boarded our flight to Kashmir the week after.
The harsh cold breeze slapped across my face sending shivers down my spine as I stepped out of the plane in Srinagar. The piercing cold was unlike anything that I had felt before. Waiting for us at the airport was the kindest chauffeur Suhail and his help who went the extra mile to provide us with a comfortable 90 minute drive to Gulmarg. Basking in nature’s beautiful play as the morning rays of the sun softly bounced off traces of snow that slowly formed to cover the expanding Himalayan mountains, we neared Khyber Resort. As we entered the premises of the resort, I couldn’t help but notice the tightening security. The very sight of military uniforms and guns combined with the thought of my dad’s initial hesitation about Kashmir, immediately replaced my state of calm with panic. It was later that I was informed of Mr Tasaduq Mufti’s stay at the resort and hence the security. Not a terror attack as I had imagined.
As we pulled into the driveway and the front porch, we were greeted very pleasantly, first by the valet as he held the door wide open, then the bell boy who quickly went on to unload our luggage and later by the doorman who whisked us into a massive hall with double height Khatamband ceiling and dark wooden panels - all in a blink of an eye. This would by far be the warmest and most genuine welcome till date. As we indulged in Kahwa at Chaikash waiting to be checked in, my mother and I observed the interiors of the warmly lit hall; The beautiful jharoka, papier-mâché lanterns and traditional carpets - the decor was rich in local heritage. We were then escorted to our room that was adorned with Kashmiri silk and such intricate detail that every piece of furniture, carpet or tapestry exuded skilful craftsmanship. A definite treat for the interiors fanatics that mum and I are.
While the January weather limited our options of outdoor activities on the first day, the heated pool with it’s breathtaking views lured me in all evening. Later that night, I rang in my 25th with my heart so full, in the most beautiful place with my most beautiful mother - oh, and the worst network. A dream! Quite embarrassed and flattered from the attention as the kind staff at Cloves presented a cake and loudly sang the birthday song during breakfast the next morning, I couldn’t have been more appreciative of the close proximity of the resort to the Gondola, at that particular moment. It was perfect to bolt because by then, my awkwardness from the attention had taken over my excitement of skiing for the first time.
Having spent the next two days skiing - or trying to, rather - we treated our bruised bodies to some divine massages at the L'Occitane Spa followed by a sauna and a dip in the pool in the evenings. Delicious in-room Kashmiri Wazwan meals were devoured after.
As my weekend slowly drew to an end, I viewed the pine trees and Affarwat peak from afar - while two flutes of Chandon down and light headed already. The mountains and the snow during the golden hour was a sight to behold. It was at this moment that I realised that nature truly is an art of god. I also realised the value of kindness. Because as I boarded Air India early next morning, etched in my memory was this beautiful property on the Pir Panjal Range. And etched in my memory were it’s genuinely hospitable staff.