Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lal Kothi

Kasmiri Pundits have a strong tradition of family Gurus. In every extended family there is one such Guru who is their spiritual pillar. At the time of my great grandfather, this person was Janki Nath Aga. Lal Kothi was built by my great grandfather, Jagan Nath Ganju and gifted to Janki Nath. Following this, his sons turned the house into a lodge for the local traders who spent half the year in Pahalgam, selling their wares to visiting tourists. These traders moved back down to their homes in the winter when Pahalgam got too cold.
So it was, that the Red House became Pahalgam's first hotel with about 30 rooms. But after some years Janki Nath's family moved away and left the house to it's seasonal tenants.
Now, some 40 years later, the bottom floor has been taken over by dhobi's who run a laundry service out of the house for the local hotels and restaurants.
The second floor is still home to summer sales men, a plumber and a truck driver.
The third floor belongs to the resident cat in the house, who i met but unfortunately could not photograph.

Hari Singh, the truck driver.

Fazal Ahmed with the clothes he sells.

Salim, the dobhi, my historian.

Pia with her father who sells sweaters and trinkets. She was visiting him on a school break with her mother and grandmother. Originally from Srinagar, their 12 by 12 room was crammed with a stove, pots, pans and suitcases full of things he sells.

Although i don't know the language i could understand that Pia's mother and grandmum were discussing in bewildered hushed tones what on earth i could possibly be interested in, in their cramped make-shift home. Despite this of course they called me their daughter, made me sheer chai (salty Kashmiri tea) and fed me :)

The rear end of the Kothi, now used as the main entrance.


Shailja said...

how did u get to know about this hotel?
janki nath jotshi is my grand father.
and what made u write this blog?

Fayaz Ahmed said...