Each one had a story to tell of ‘her Kashmir,' but all of them, who belong to a generation caught between war and conflict, seemed to have managed to wash out the bruised past.

Their vigour and openness made one forget for a moment that they are children who constantly suffered in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

When 21 girls, aged between 13 and 21 of Raahat Ghar Orphanage,

Srinagar, got a chance reach the other end of the country on Sunday, they were more than thrilled. The visit was part of the Culture Familiarisation Programme of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

In an interaction with The Hindu, the children shared their experiences of travelling through the States of South India.

“The journey was not easy. When we started, there was heavy snow and we could hardly get out of our home. We even feared that the trip would be cancelled,” says Dilshada Khan, a class X student. The jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) helped us reach the station safely, she adds.

Their visit to Chennai and Coimbatore made them feel that ‘people had so much freedom.' Their visit to Marina beach in Chennai, Botanical Gardens in Udhagamandalam made them understand that ‘there is a beautiful world outside Kashmir.'

“The people are free here. If you have freedom, you can build your future. But in Kashmir, this is not possible. During an interaction with the students, we had difficulty in speaking English. We want to have English education too,” says Nikath Kureshi, a college student.

One thing that surprised the group about Kerala was the high literacy rate. “We have heard that Kerala has 98 per cent literacy. We wanted to know how the State achieved this. When we visit the Chief Minister, we would want to ask him about it,” says Nageena, a class X student.

The group will travel to Kovalam and then travel to Kanyakumari.

The group was joined by Camp Deputy Commander T.K. Kunjumol, project coordinator Jaya Iyer, CRPF Liaison Officer R. Rajeev, and eight special protection guards under the leadership of CRPF Group Centre (Pallipuram) Deputy Inspector-General Ajay Bharatan.