A sleepy dawn greeted us through the mist and haze as we embarked upon a three hours’ shikara (wooden Kashmiri boats) ride on the Dal Lake. There was a unique calm about this ride. The tranquil waters mirrored a sense of peace that I felt deep within me!
I hummed a popular Bollywood song shot in these waters – full of romance and contentment with life – as our shikara floated lazily on the Dal Lake. It was on these still waters, along the white slopes, amidst apple orchards, that the film Kashmir Ki Kali, among numerous others, have been shot; and I could almost visualize the evergreen Shammi Kapoor and coy Sharmila Tagore weaving legendary romance for the silver screen somewhere close by, as we sailed past busy people who rippled by in their boats, with careless and friendly grace.
We were a group of trekkers getting back to civilization after eight days in the mountains; and had decided to spend a day in the capital city of Kashmir, Srinagar, before heading back to our respective lives. Nothing could have been a better way to end our adventure than this. The tireless splendour of the landscape that presented itself anew; the lush meadows, clear cobalt sky and a profusion of myriad hues that make Kashmir what it is – “Heaven on Earth”.
The boatmen ferried us along the floating vegetables and flower markets and artefact shops. The shoreline of the lake was adorned with brightly painted shikaras wobbling against each other, their velvety coaches and lacy curtains a vibrant red or blue! We sailed into deeper waters, to the centre of the lake towards the Char Chinar, a man-made island named after four majestic autumnal chinar trees that stood guard on the four corners of the island.
A lazy morning and a lazier sun! It was past seven thirty when the first few rays glistened on the water. We basked in the warm glow of the rising sun, wrapped in a cosy blanket, listening to old tunes playing on the boatman’s transistor. I was living the dream that is Kashmir.
The floating restaurants opened after eight. We drank Kahwa (a Kashmiri beverage prepared with an exotic mix of Kashmiri green tea leaves, whole spices, nuts and saffron, which was traditionally prepared in a brass kettle known as samovar) and savoured soupy noodles and crispy fried snacks; and bargained for dry fruits and spices leaning over the edge of the boat, before alighting at the Lal Chowk side of the city. I cannot think of a more divine culmination to such a beautiful morning.
– Text and Pictures By Team Alpaviram
Here’s a lovely video by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism that showcases what the state has to offer to tourists: