Visit to Kashmir

I fell in love with Kashmir.

It was 1989, and I had come to India to have a closer look. A year before, I had flown to Delhi and the same day taken the bus to Kathmandu to go trekking in Nepal.

This meant that I had a lot of hours sitting and watching Northern India go past the windows of the bus, and this had piqued my interest and convinced me I should go and have a proper look.

So I arrived and, a couple of days later, took the bus up to Srinagar, a journey of 24 hours. In those days, I never kept a travel journal, which is something I regret now. It makes it difficult to piece together the details and leaves me, at best, with impressions and, of course, a number of photographs.

The photos, though, were taken on a cheap camera, and I did not take many.

But I had a week in Srinagar and although I did not venture far afield from there, I loved what I saw of the valley with its gardens, Lake Dal with its confusion of meandering paths through fields and grass, naturally, the houseboats on the lake and also the shakiras, the sampan-like boats used by the fishermen and the traders on the lake.

shakirab

Shakira on Lake Dal

I found a houseboat when I arrived, managing to resist ending up in a hotel in town that was being pressed on me by a fellow on the bus. I seem to remember I found my houseboat by going to the lake, hiring a shakira and asking the boatman to take me to the first of a long line of moored houseboats, where I asked if there was a room. I think at the second or third I struck lucky.

I keep trying to remember the name of my houseboat.

Occasionally, during their waking day, a dreamer will catch a glimpse, a snapshot – no, not even that; perhaps no more than a hint, a flavour of a previous night’s dream. Something akin to catching a scent on the breeze that is gone before it is even realised that it was there. That is the best way I can describe the teasing hint I may get of the name of that boat. I think ‘Ah, yes, it began with ‘S’…no, wait, it didn’t, but there was definitely an ‘S’ in it somewhere. Perhaps…’ then it has gone.

But it was my own floating palace for a week. A marvel of beautifully carved wood, a magnificent bedroom and living room all to myself, and a fellow who lived on board (not the owner, I gathered) who cooked my meals. When I wasn’t ashore exploring, I sat on the deck and read.

I remember the Shalimar Gardens, and that there were at least one or two more; masses of flowers, large lawns, trees…I wandered around there with the high mountains towering above us.

And, there was the beginning of the agitation. At that point, I knew next to nothing of India’s history or politics, and although I could detect the tensions, I was unaware of what they comprised. Once or twice, there were isolated gunshots in the distance, especially at night. ‘Bandits’, said my fellow on board, rather too casually. I came across a mass demonstration outside a mosque in town, with either the police or the army, I’ve no idea which, a very heavy presence. There was a lot of shouting, and the atmosphere was hostile enough for me to make myself scarce fairly quickly.

But I personally encountered nothing but politeness and good humour, and other than the underlying tensions, despite getting ripped off now and again in shops (it was Kashmir, and I was a tourist!), I felt comfortable and happy there. When I left the valley to return to Delhi and thence further afield, it was with the thought I would return again one day.

Regrettably, though, each time I have returned, it has not been considered a safe destination.

Perhaps, though…perhaps…one day…

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27 thoughts on “Visit to Kashmir

  1. The early years of agitation in 90’s saw lots of kidnapping of foreign tourists and worse. Those were difficult period. From 2006 to 2014-15, the tourism returned to normal. But since last year, its going down.

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      1. With Kashmir, no one knows how the situation will be Mick. I did visit Kashmir during this period and have also written a post on my experience in Kashmir. While the natural scenery is stunning, other aspects didn’t make me happy!

        Liked by 1 person

                  1. Well, Kashmiri’s dominated the tourist emporiums in India until the business actually went down. They are one of the best salesmen around because they know how to touch the “emotional” button which will release your purse!

                    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a bit behind with reading my fellow blogger’s posts at the moment, but I enjoyed reading this post, Mick. What a lovely picture of Kashmir you paint (excuse the pun – really not intended). I would have loved to have travelled, and I’ve always wanted to stay on a houseboat, but the combination of boats and wheelchairs isn’t a good one!

    As for trying to remember a word, I find myself doing this more and more often nowadays. I find it sometimes helps to run through the alphabet out loud, sounding each letter until one of them becomes familiar. Having said that, sometimes this doesn’t work either in which case it’s probably better to stop thinking about it, and the answer will come to you when you’re thinking about something else entirely.

    I love the way you describe both Kashmir (I do hope you will, one day, be able to return there) and also your view of trying to remember a word – both descriptions are very picturesque.

    I do hope that one day, you will be able to return there when it is safer than it is at the moment x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks, Ellie. It’s always lovely to get your comments on a post.

      I’ve tried the alphabet method scores of times – it’s my preferred way of remembering words, too. And like you say, when it doesn’t work then that’s the time to give up and hope that the word will suddenly show up in an unexpected flash of inspiration. Unfortunately, as the years go by, that seems less and less likely. But, it doesn’t matter. Even if I was to suddenly remember the name of the houseboat, some 30 or so years later, so what?

      Perhaps I’ll just call it Fred. Or Sid.

      Or Ellie, even. Who knows?

      If I did go back, I’d never find it again, anyway.

      All the best! x

      Liked by 1 person

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