What sights do you see when you go on a shikara ride on the Dal Lake? Let me tell you, with the help of some pictures.
You see floating shops that sell everything from toothpaste and hair-oil to Lays chips and Coca Cola.
You see boats where you can register for adventure sports like water surfing. No, we didn’t go for any of them.
You see floating vendors selling fruit chaat, their boats full of different varieties of fruit, some of which you have never seen before.
You see floating vendors who prepare sheesh kababs.
You see the houseboat where part of Mission Kashmir was shot.
You see the freshest of vegetables being sold in a floating vegetable shop, and you get sad that you cannot buy any of them because you have no way of cooking them and they would rot before you could take them home with you.
You see Mr. Wonderful Flower-man selling pretty ‘Kashmiri’ flowers and seeds for the same. We bought a few varieties of seeds, after going through a catalogue of brilliant flowers. All seeds look pretty much the same, and we do not know what is going to surprise us after we plant them!
You can buy Maggi noodles, pakoras, bhajiyas, hot tea or coffee, chips or Kashmiri Kehwa at a floating fast-food restaurant.
You can ogle at the intricate carving of other houseboats.
You can see men casting their fishing nets far and wide, and smoking their hookah as they wait for some catch to gather.
You get thrilled to see the government’s initiative to educate the cutesy little kids of the villagers who live on the Dal Lake.
You see a ‘bathing boat’, and you wonder what it is used for.
You see floating shops that sell traditional Kashmiri dresses, shawls, imitation jewellery, bed linen, sarees and handicrafts, saffron and dry fruits. These shopkeepers are happy to even come to your houseboat in their shikara to show you their wares.
You see floating farms belonging to the villagers who live in the far interiors of the Dal Lake. You drool at the fresh mint and chillies and bottlegourds dangling from the lush plants on these farms, and are happy when your houseboat cook informs you that he cooks the same vegetables for you. These farms can be attached to boats, and can be taken anywhere on the Dal Lake.
You get excited to see the ‘Floating Post Office’. What a wonderful thing!
You see birds that you cannot identify, and understand the true meaning of ‘wind in the bulrushes’.
You see a crane (or stork?) deep in contemplation.
You see an eagle surveying his property.
You see (and hear) ducks having a full-blast conversation amidst the lovely lotus leaves.
You see sparrows happily twittering away, jumping among the water lily plants, which, the Kashmiris say, ‘Water lily, subah khili, shaam ko nahi mili‘.
You admire the sight of other shikaras floating on the calm Dal, and the pretty picture that they make against the hills.
And then, you return to your houseboat with a heavy heart, understanding that you might never be doing this wonderful, therapeutic thing of taking a joy ride on a shikara ever again.