It was still pitch dark and raining heavily in entire Srinagar when we reached Dal Lake. The dawn was just around the corner and we were asked to wait till the first light for a Shikara (small designed boats as called in local language) to be available to escort us to our houseboat. A long and patient wait it was. And then it was light, our first sunlight of Srinagar. Though it was very cloudy and the light was dim, it didn’t take long to get struck by the beauty of Dal Lake. It was huge and picturesque with snow-clad mountain peaks in the background trying hard to come out of rain clouds. The houseboats were all lined up one after another waiting eagerly to welcome their guests. Shikaras were parked besides them, with no one available to take it for a ride at this hour. A sense of peace prevailed all over, and the pleasure of witnessing the beauty of a calm and crowd free Dal lake was all mine.
As the wait became longer, life started to open up in Dal lake for the day. Locals sailed on their boats and started heading towards a common direction, few of them had some fully covered stuffs laden on them. Finally the Shikara was here and we hopped into it. Sensing an opportunity I opened up my camera to capture some early morning snaps, and got few decent ones as well. After reaching the houseboat we just slept and slept, god knows for how many hours. After waking up, it was a different story altogether. The early mornings calm and peaceful Dal lake had transformed itself into a busy colony. It somewhat reminded me of Thailand’s floating market and the scene from the Hindi movie Kashmir Ki Kali, where Shammi Kapoor was seen romancing Sharlima Tagore in the song “Ye chand sa roshan chehera”. Simply because, of the vendors floating all over the lake trying to sell various stuffs to the guests of the houseboats. Flowers, jewellery, Kashmiri dresses, shawls, locally produced fruits and vegetables,etc all were available with them. Our houseboat was a small one and the owner of the boat was a humble man who was in his early fifty’s I guess. We called him Khan Chacha. He served us tea which had the flavors of some local spices and felt very different. He opened up with me and shared some of his experiences of his life in Sringar. It doesn’t take time to realize how hard their life is in this troublesome region of Kashmir. Tourists provide their daily bread but the ongoing unrest sometimes create survival challenges for these hard-working localities. Impressed by his kind gestures and hospitality for us, I decided to capture some glimpse of this beautiful lake and the life of the locals around it. It was partly sunny and the lake was full of tourists and was at its colorful best. So I decided to get into action as the amateur photographer in me made me eager to explore and discover the secrets. Have a look at some of my captures during our short stay in this ever magnificent Dal Lake :
Hope I was able to give a decent glimpse of the life of Dal Lake in Srinagar and how the Shikaras and House boats forms an in-separable part of the lake adding to the beauty of the region and attracting tourists from all over.
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A writeup by : Sumeet Chakraborty