Monday, July 06, 2015

Srinagar - Floating Market

You have to wake up REALLY early in the morning to go to the floating market. The first thought that came to my mind getting out of the warm quilt of the houseboat at 4 am in the morning was to cancel the trip.  
But Hanif, my boatman was already there, waiting with his shikara (small rowing boat), so I had to put on my clothes and trudged to his shikara. Looking at my sullen expression, Hanif greeted  warmly and assured me that I would be feeling good very soon.
It was pitch dark when we started. I could only hear the sound of the oar going in and out of the still and dark water of the Dal lake. 
After some time my eyes started adjusting to the darkness and I could see the twinkling lights on the shore. As if on cue, the call of prayer (azan) from the Hazratbal mosque floated across the water of the lake. It was surreal…the dark cold, rhythmic sound of the oar, twinkling lights and the beautiful azan mixed together, covering everything in a haze. All conversations stopped and we sunk into our thoughts.
After a while gradually the darkness started fading from the eastern sky. I could see the silhouettes of other shikaras, also heading in the same direction. Some of them were carrying vegetables grown on the lake, one was carrying confectionery, and Kashmiri tea (Kawa) and one was loaded with flowers.  The flower man was very persistent and made sure we buy a bunch of Chrysanthemums. We bought some cookies and Kawa tea from another one.
By the time we reached the market, the trading boats had already assembled. The sale  started right away with haggling and bantering in great haste. The buyers were mostly the houseboat owners and the sellers from the villages on the lake.
It was a beautiful experience to see something so vivid which wass part of the daily lives of the inhabitants of the lake. So close to the tourist attractions but still retaining its character and ambiance.
Within 40 minutes, most of the trading was over and either the boats were leaving while few were settling for  morning cups of tea and some gossip.
We had another round of Kawa and headed back the same way. With the morning sun spreading a golden hue, Dal lake had started breathing. There were boats carrying children to school, boats delivering fresh bread, boats collecting weeds from the lake, fishermen throwing their nets and birds circling overhead. A new day has arrived.

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