Star Date: August 2018
Family & Friends!
(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.”
"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
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,
$1.00US = 45.5 Indian Rupees
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).
Eating around Nigeen Lake:
Second falafel restaurant past Nigeen Club
on left side of road - great veg curry and naan
Deal with Daughter Nazima 9622429180
Her Father can get pushy but is away most of the time.
near Ghat #2
600 to the airport
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
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.