Military trucks flitting around Dal Lake was my first visual of Srinagar. I had reached just a day after the curfew was lifted off. Barricades, barbed wire and military personnel dotted the road leading from the airport to the houseboat I was staying at on Dal Lake. Seeing the rows of houseboats crowing up the lake, I was reminded of old Bollywood films like Kashmir Ki Kali and TV shows like Gulfam that beautifully showcased life on the lake.
I rode on a traditional shikaras to reach my room, passing by a tiny chai and coffee stall that also sold food items like Maggi bang in the middle of the lake. I suppose I expected the lake to be a peaceful place, where one could simply relish leisurely shikara rides, but it has become too commercial here. There are more than 100 houseboats on the lake, together with a floating market selling all sorts of wares like apparel, accessories, and handicrafts.
My room was simple and cosy. The interior wall had intricate wood carvings and a high ceiling. There was a tiny window for ventilation and a small bathroom that barely fitted in a bathtub. One houseboat often has two rooms or more, a kitchen and a living room. Some even have an open area to soak in mountain views during a cup of tea at sunrise. While living in a houseboat still remains a unique experience, the excessive commercialisation dampens it to a certain extent. That said, I would still recommend it. It is definitely worth being on a bucket list.
NEXT: DAY 17 - London