Stunning scenery and breathtaking mountain ranges have led many to claim that Kashmir is paradise on earth.
I last visited this part of the world in March of this year, when I marvelled at its beauty and admired the honesty and sincerity of its inhabitants.
The hospitality of the poor
Travelling through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and the surrounding towns and villages, I was taken a back by the wondrous hospitality I was afforded.
I knew full well that most of those hosting me were poor and living in difficult conditions, yet each time I burdened them with my presence they extended a generous hand and gave so much.
I remember the children running and playing enjoying the vast landscape. I remember seeing some of them working to help put food on the table. I remember them making their way to school.
As I walked through the bustling markets in the valleys, I watched traders and customers haggle over every day items for sale.
I have returned but what I find is starkly different.
The lost genereation
The scenery is still stunning and beautiful – but long gone are the bustling markets and the sound of children eagerly making their way to early morning classes.
I remember them with their smart uniforms and their petite little headscarves, walking over the difficult terrain with their rucksacks on their backs. I no longer see this wonderful sight.
It was they who bore the brunt of the most devastating earthquake in the region for over one hundred years.
I remember visiting some of the most remote communities high in the mountains – travelling there at the best of times was hazardous. How on earth would aid and help reach them now?
Kashmir has lost a generation who were inspiring themselves and others to build their nation.
When I spoke to these children in March they told me of their dreams and visions for their country and how their faith drove them on.
Now their parents bury them, if they can find them. Those parents who are alive, that is.
I wonder if the dreams of these young children are also being buried in the mass graves which now fill the region.
It seems as though the entire city needs to be rebuilt – buildings which are still standing are structurally unsafe and need to be demolished – but I doubt that will happen.
It will take at least 10 to 15 years to rebuild the city – there is talk of moving the capital elsewhere.
Whatever happens, this tragedy is just beginning.
Report by Jamsheed Din, Islamic Relief correspondent in Pakistan.