Shikara Ride on Dal Lake: Or Why Water Bodies in Cities Soothe Your Soul

When we reached Srinagar from Gulmarg the sudden rise in temperature was disconcerting. So we hurried out of Nishat Mughal Gardens and headed into the town for lunch. This was the only meal in a hotel we had planned to have as Jojo wanted Wazwan. The wazwan at Mughal Durbar had about six different mutton preparations – seekh kabab, rogan josh, tabak maaz ( rib of lamb) and gushtaba ( meat ball in white yoghurt sauce) is what I can remember; and it was almost all good. But the biriyani we had ordered as a second order was subpar – they don’t know how to cook it.

Magnolia tree in Nishat Garden

The shikara took us to our houseboat  ‘Victoria’ on the other side of Ghat No 9. Our room was very well furnished and looked royal. But at 2.30 pm it was like a furnace. Then the power went off for an hour at 3pm , making it worse. But it was a totally different feeling as we got up on the shikara at arou8nd 5,30. The atmosphere was so joyous, with friendly boatmen and all passengers determined to enjoy themselves, that one didn’t mind the various hawkers who were trying to sell you everything from trinkets and shawls to saffron and snacks. ( Jayshree bought a ring and something else.) As we moved away from the crowd into the deeper part of the lake, the atmosphere became even more beautiful. One could see some people with fishing rods as well as  fish-eating birds whose names I don’t know diving for their prey. There were healthy bottle gourds hanging from the vines. We didnt venture into the shops in the Meena Bazar but they looked colourful.

Jewellery shopping in shikara

Jojo thoughtful in shikara

The ride distressed us totally. So we sat on the deck and watched more shikara riders take off and fishing birds dive. Boy, it was so relaxing!

That’s also when we realized how in Kashmir the dawn breaks early at around 4.30pm and the it becomes dark only at 8pm. This being the moth of Ramzan, it meant most people had to have their pre-fasting meal at 3.30 pm and go for the morning namaz at 4.30am, and they could break their fast only at 7.45pm.

Dinner at the houseboat again was homely with daal, cauliflower curry ad chicken. There was beer available but none of us was in mood for it. Gul Mohammad the young man who had taken our booking owns, along with his brother, some four houseboats with 16 rooms. Both of them were very hospitable, showering us with genuine care.

Jojo in Shikara 1

A shikara came at 4.30 am in the morning to take us to Ghat No 9. It was not fully light yet and we could see the light from the Shankaracharya Temple on the mountain top.  Zahoor reported at Ghat No 9 punctually and drove us to the airport. In the early morning light, Srinagar looked like any other city except for its houses with sloping tinned roofs and coniferous trees along the roads. But when I recollected how nice the common people had been all along, how I wished all the troubles of the sate were behind it and it truly became the paradise on earth, which a beautiful place like this with such lovely people  could so easily become.

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