Click bait! Getting into the art of it, if that can be called a achievement. Probably not. I guess I should stretch out the answer till the last para, but I haven’t mastered the art yet, so here it is – you can save a trip to Netherlands by visiting Kashmir in spring to see the tulip gardens! With the added bonus of having a backdrop of magnificent mountains to set them off.
Of course, all the people of Kashmir and neighboring states, being the smart people they are, have already discovered this secret and were on the road in front of us inching their way to the tulips. Felt just like home in Bangalore.
But that’s par for the course for any touristy destination, and all the minor inconveniences paled into insignificance on sighting the rows and rows of multi-hued tulips. We’ve already covered stunning background. Check. One of the highlights of Srinagar, apart from life on the lake. Thanks to everyone who recommended this place.
It’s a boat life
Now that we’ve saved ourselves some money, we can spend it on shopping. We’ve all seen Kashmiri handicrafts – from the famed pashmina shawls, cashmere sweaters, walnut furniture and souvenirs, embroidered clothing and linen, dry fruits and nuts, spices, leather bags and jackets – the list, and the shops, are endless.
“You don’t have to pay to look, sister. Only look. Come and see. Sit down, have some kahwa tea, no pressure.”
These are some of the most sophisticated salesmen in the business, and since we’ve saved some money anyway, some of it can be spent on exquisite kashmiri products.
“Mamma, Uncle is in the hall with jewelry. He’s asking you to come and look.”
What uncle? What jewlry? There are so many shops and salesmen, it gets bewildering. Luckily, the boat life took some of the guesswork out by vetted salespeople coming right to the boat with their wares. Or go right to the source to the floating market.
T loves to shop and was in her element with the visiting uncles and their wares.
“We have to go to Uncle’s shop at night.”
“Don’t worry, houseboat uncle will take us.”
Salesman uncle had cleverly won her loyalty by not giving me much of a discount, but giving her a free shawl in the colours she liked. I told you they were sophisticated.
Thus we found ourselves on a narrow open boat being rowed across the dark lake after dinner. A light shone like an oasis in the desert – Uncle’s shop. However, we weren’t the only mad midnight shoppers, and people from other houseboats also poured in.
Boat life is also just chilling on the sitout and “watching life go by,” as recommended by cousin S. Chilling is not quite T’s forte, and when asked what she would like to do, the standard answer is,
“Let’s go on a shikhara ride!”
Also happens to be my favorite thing. As you stretch out on the gondola-like boat and it quietly glides away on the calm lake, a great calmness descends on your soul. All your cares slip away with the swish of the paddle. Your eyes take in the twinkling lights on the houseboats and the mountains and the setting sun reflects its golden light in the ripples of water. This is the life.
It’s so easy to go on a peaceful circle round the lake, stopping at a mobile Cafe to pick up hot tea and fried pakoras, or cold coffee and grilled sandwiches or the crowd-pleasing Maggi. Passing shikharas offer everything from souvenirs to cold drinks and barbecued chicken. I leave you now as we can spot a musical fountain in the distance and some interesting parties with rocking punjabi music. Let’s row, row, row away, oh boatsman.