Star Date:  August 2018
Kashmir II

     
 Hello Dear Family & Friends!

 

"Inshallah"

(Lord/Allah willing - Arabic)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.
(Michael Palin)

 

 

 

"Hello!  I am Mr. Marvelous!  My Father has sold flowers for 75 years, he is now 95."  His Son, Mohdayoub, now rides around in a brightly painted red canoe with, "You are simply wonderful.  You Happy.  I am Happy" painted on the side.  He sings his way around the lake, enveloped in a rainbow of colorful flowers.  People enjoy his positive attitude and company so much that he has regular customers and brings fresh flowers every couple of days.  Besides beautiful bouquets I bought fresh lavender and seeds from his heritage seeds.

We became friends and Joseph and I were invited to his 2 acre flower farm.  Down we went in the tiny wooden canoe, winding our way through the mysterious backwaters of Nigeen Lake.

Where from you?  Luckily I had my family photos and pictures of Hawaii to help explain. 

We were told Water is Life.  We on this planet have no idea how important freshwater is to humankind.  We have enjoyed staying with peoples whose cultures revolve around large bodies of fresh water.  On Indaley Lake in Burma, with the fishermen along Lake Malawi, Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, the Bataks along Lake Toba in Sumatra, Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin, and now along Dal or Nigeen Lake in the Himalayas of Kashmir.  Their very existence relies on water.  Our very existence as a species relies on water; fresh, clean water.

Their life and livelihood revolves around the lake and its life giving waters.  Transport to the shore is via hand paddled 'shikaras' or canoes.  Fish is caught.  Floating gardens produce tomatoes, long bottle gourds, cucumbers (the first real hydroponic operation!); lake weed is hauled into almost capsizing boats to be fed to cattle.  Water plants such as water chestnuts and lotus are collected and eaten as a delicacy.

A flood had taken the family house of Mr. Marvelous and wife Farida 2 years ago, so now they spend the summers in a makeshift lean-to in the bayou and the cold frigid winters in town in a typical brick two story home.  We brought vegetables, rice and cookies and prepared a lunch together. Wives, kids, flowers, cousins, dogs, Grandmas, everyone was there.  We were given Kashmiri names, Zia and Joseph Gufara.  We 'kind of' politely smoked jajir or sheesha or huka on pillows on the floor of the brother's home after a filling meal.  Away we went loaded with gifts and armloads of flowers.  Paddling back the 2 miles to our houseboat we felt blessed to have shared such a meaningful afternoon with this Kashmiri family.

Sitting on the front deck of our houseboat, engulfed in the serenity of Nigeen Lake, we are surrounded by over a century of the relaxed spirits of like minded travelers.  Through the ages people have sat and contemplated life, gazing over the mirror like lake, with the back drop of the Himalayas.  Scores of eagles circle high above; like us often contemplating food instead of infinite consciousness or the meaning of life.

Generations of families have been born, grown, aged, and passed on, as do the guests they take care of.  Gulam, our houseboat man is part of the bigger family.  His wife, Kulsum, is cook # 2 and their 5 year old daughter, Nida, was nicknamed Princess.  Cook # 1 Mymoona, prepared a tasty Indian/Kashmiri dinner every evening in the dining room; aloo palak a favorite.  Ab-hamid works in the taxi stand at the airport and supervises operations of the boat.  He snags wayward tourists to stay a night or 2, but mostly we had the whole place to ourselves.  Young couples in love, new students at the University, a few western backpackers pass through like the wind.  The world comes to us!  Only one gale force tempest passed through for a week.  An unstable young woman from the Middle East, stirred up our peaceful life with the large chip on her shoulder and we were glad to bid her adieu. 

Ab-hamid 's wife stays in town at the winter home.  Two beautiful daughters stayed part time while attending University. Nazima was the most helpful to us.  Twelve year old Fazzi , a delightful young fellow, enjoyed talking to us and learning from Joseph. 

One day the younger daughter, Ishrat, was cleaning the crystals one by one in the chandelier in the living room.  This is what she told me:

"Muslim girls no permission.  Never permission.  We cannot go to University without permission of Father and teacher.  Cannot get married without arranged marriage.  I want love marriage, she said dreamily.  Muslim girls work hard.  Prayers at 5am, then make breakfast, then cleaning and cooking.  Going to school is fun.  A break from the work.

When the girl is about 22 her Father arranges a marriage.   She can say "no" but usually what the family says goes.  Often the girl, who must move into the
new husband's home, must work very hard for his family and we hope they aren't mean to us.

Ishrat says her Father is good and doesn't require a burka.  Burkas makes your skin sick underneath.  Muslim girls need permission, but I have this freedom at least."

We visited the University of Kashmir several times.  There we met some  modern young women and interesting young men.  We made friends with a professor, Syed, who was very helpful and was kind enough to show us around the area.  We went up into the hills to remote villages a couple of times with him and his lovely daughter Maryam.  We stopped by his families' country home and even saw the fascinating ancient ruins outside of Srinagar: Burzahom archaeological site, dating between 3000 BC and 1000 BC.  Tension can be high at times in Kashmir.  It is wonderful locals like Syed and his daughter who opened their hearts to us in the midst of turmoil, showing what the real Kasmiris are made of.

Change is on it's way.  We felt the time has come for new ways to erupt through the controlling barriers placed by the older generations.  May the transition be peaceful.   "Inshallah."

 

 

And so it goes.........................................Next exploring the back alleys and burning ghats of Varanasi, India, located along the mighty Ganges River.  Until then let's remember to feed our travel bugs once in a while.  It's an amazing world out there! We are glad you stopped by. Thanks for dropping us a note once in a while!  Take care!

 

 

Love, Light & Laughter, 


xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph

 

 

 

Travel notes:

$1.00US = 45.5 Indian Rupees

Srinigar/Dal Lake/Nigeen Lake:
We come to Srinigar to have a one of a kind houseboat stay, as with the British of old escaping the heat of India.  Step back in time and relax.  Be smart and make a wise choice to start with and have a hassle free stay. 
1) Never book ahead.  You will pay 10 times the price for a shabbier boat if you book from Delhi, etc.  Everyone has a cousin who owns a boat and wants a commission.  Meet the family and get a feel if they are genuinely glad to have you stay with them or they just want your money. 
2) When choosing a house boat look for a good wide open view of the lake; no barking dogs or street noise; no screaming kids; no garbage floating.
 3) You need a breeze, not in a row of houseboats listening to each other's noise; away from boatloads of backpackers or worse Indian pilgrims visiting the Ice Lingum by day and partying by night; not next to mosque loudspeakers.
4) Clean and well maintained rooms, hot water, good decks from which to enjoy the lake, close accessibility to markets, etc
5) We suggest getting everything in writing as some owners promise the moon and try to increase the price later.  Write down what meals are eaten every day w/price and have them sign.  Settle up often.  We had no trouble with Habib and family, but we all forget things, change isn't given, a common little scam, and on & on. Keep it businesslike to avoid trouble at the end when leaving.  You can also get to know the family better without money issues ruining the relationship. 

Nigeen Lake is cleaner and more pristine than Dal Lake. You can get a shikara driver to paddle you around looking at the back side of Dal Lake and for another 200r go over to Nigeen (settle the price per hour ahead of getting in: 100r per hour, or per trip).
 
Nigeen Lake:
A quiet, pleasant place to enjoy life on the lake.  Bargain hard for a good price. ranges from low season 300R to 1000R rarely in high season). 
Check a number of places first to find out the range of quality of accommodations and prices at the time you visit. An overabundance of houseboats has lowered prices.  As stated above get the price and what's included, in writing.  We hope for everyone's sake that political tensions ease and life and business will resume.    You won't ever want to leave.

Eating around Nigeen Lake:

Second falafel restaurant past Nigeen Club on left side of road - great veg curry and naan

Nairobi Houseboat:
Deal with Daughter Nazima  9622429180
Her Father can get pushy but is away most of the time.

near Ghat #2  Nigeen Lake
Take Shikara over
email: 
houseboatnairobi@gmail.com

Taxi - 600 to the airport
Mehraj Din Dar
9906476319  9419951409

Nisar Beigh - one of the gem dealers who will drop by your houseboat if asked.  He wasn't pushy and had certificates for many of his stones.  Kashmir is famous for blue sapphires.
Nisar Jewels  Email or call Nisar

email   beighsahab@rediefmail.com

9797219233
 

Stuck in Srinigar/Dahl Lake? - go online to find a place or last minute try for a local experience:

Punjabi Haveli - pure veg near crossroads of lake and road from Nigeen to Srinigar

Across from lake - best naan and aloo palak in Srinigar

Hotel New Green View II
Gate 15 - Dahl Lake - friendly owner and family.  Basic accommodations - houseboat, tours, and very basic hotel but low prices.  Go to the market with Ghulam and pick out vegetables for him to cook.  Great mixed-veg curry.

Saklains Coterie
Phone # 91 9818731913

32 Polo View Rd., Srinigar

We bought wonderful freshly distilled essential oils from this tiny shop , at a great price.  Their organic farm outside of town grows and processes everything from heavenly lavender to zippy lemongrass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Engulfed in the serenity of Nigeen Lake, we are
 surrounded by over a century of the relaxed
 spirits of like minded travelers who gazed
over this very back porch.

 


"Hello!  I am Mr. Marvelous!"  

 


Flowers within flowers.  Like fractals
and molecules, everything repeats itself. 
The Universe within the Universe.

 


His Son, Mohdayoub, now rides around in a brightly
 painted red canoe with, "You are simply wonderful.
 You Happy.  I am Happy" painted on the side.

 


A field of sunflowers.

 


The backwaters between Dal Lake and
Nigeen Lake.

 


Off to school.

 


A new foot bridge.

 


Our dear Gulam guided us through the maze
 of backwaters to Mr. Marvelous' house.

 


We knew we had arrived.  Mohdayoub
and his brother's boats ready to go.

 


Brother in a corner of the massive flower field.

 


My new stunning bouquet.

 


A rainbow of zinnias.

 


All the women of the house welcomed me
so warmly.

 


Of course I got them dancing!

 


Satiated after a tasty Kashmiri meal,
right from the garden to our laps.

 


The maze of waterways.

 


Harvesting vegetables from the floating gardens.

 


Large, brick winter homes.

 


One of my many bouquets around the
houseboat.  I usually arranged about 6
each week to brighten our lives.

 


Returning home to the house boat.

 


The cooks, sisters, Fassi and little Princess.

 


A fascinating bird we had only seen previously
in Africa.  A seemingly endless display of
birds on Nigeen Lake.  Makes us hopeful as we
witness the decline in numbers worldwide.
 More people less birds.  Simple.

 


Enjoying our family photos in their
houseboat behind ours.

 


Fassi and Princess goofing around.

 


The happy little bird family in the corner of
the living room.

 


Fresh flowers, antiques and Kashmir carpets

 


Joseph swimming and Fassi having a water fight!

 


Yellow water lily.

 


Relaxing in his shikara.

 


These stands lined the shore of Dal Lake.

 


A happy couple.  How can people believe the
propaganda that Kashmiri's are terrorists?

 


Markets of Srinigar.

 


Mouth watering fruit from the mountains.

 


If it's not here you don't need it!

 


The clothing street.

 


Girls home with new outfits and scarves.
Women may go without covering their hair.

 


A new bride with her intricate henna and
dozens of bracelets.

 


The back of Dal Lake isn't as busy as the front
chaos.

 


This wonderful family invited us to share lunch
with them on their houseboat on Nigeen Lake.

 


The University of Kashmir.

 


We made friends with a professor, Syed,
who was very helpful and was kind enough
to show us around the area.  We are at the
 fascinating ancient ruins outside of Srinagar:
 
Burzahom archaeological site, dating between
3000 BC and 1000 BC.
 
  

 


Mountain village girls.

 


 We went up into the hills to remote villages
 a couple of times with Syed and his lovely
 daughter Maryam. 
Nomads camping in the
valley for summer.

 


We stopped by Syeds' family country home,
where we were warmly welcomed once again.

 

 

 

 

 


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