Me and Christine at Pari Mahal.
Our 'Ten Rupee Man' on the lake.
October 21, 2007
Before boarding our plane in Delhi we needed to identify our luggage. Easy enough. Well, it would have been easy if my
luggage was there to be identified. The main thought crossing my mind was ‘At least I decided to carry my sari onboard with
me.’ And of course ‘I wonder if my bag will ever be found.’ And ‘I should have purchased that darn airline insurance!’ They
started radioing people and nobody was coming up with a black Dakine trolley bag. Now I was thinking about priorities. Two
main concerns about things in my luggage came to mind – a) What happens if I get my period? All of my real tampons with the
luxurious applicators are in my bag. (These are things that one can never find in this country.); and b) Will I even be able to
buy thong underwear when I get there? Funny that these thoughts trumped thoughts of my clothes, make-up or
prescriptions/medications. But I wasn’t really even too bothered by the whole thing (probably because I was so tired) and just
asked the airline guy what would happen if it wasn’t found. He assured me it would be found. And a couple minutes before the
flight was to depart, somebody found my bag that appeared to be mis-identified by somebody and already put on the plane.
That made me quite a happy person.
When we arrived in Srinigar, we were greeted by Feroz at the airport. He is the whole reason I am up here. I met him and his
family last year in New Delhi and we have remained in contact ever since. When he found out I was coming to India, he invited
me to the wedding. I was not going to pass up an opportunity like this so I cut my time in Europe short, tweaked a few dates
and got out here in time. His family has houseboats out here and he is letting us stay in one of the rooms with board. Extremely
kind and generous.
I was expecting the houseboat to be a lot more ‘roughing it’…but it’s not. It has electricity and, more importantly, hot water. So
I am a happy camper. There is also a large dining room and living room and a balcony/terrace area to enjoy the lake scenery.
After some Kashmiri tea and lunch, we headed to the house where we met his sister, Lateefa, who is the bride-to-be. She is
such a sweetheart and nicknamed me ‘Zuni’ which means ‘the moon’. Christine’s nickname is something that sounds like
‘Fuzzy’ and means ‘peacefulness’. Shazia, Feroz’s wife, then came in and we had our little reunion – it was great to see her
again (as I stayed with her and Feroz last year in New Delhi). We were also shown out traditional Kashmiri outfits that they
are lending us for the wedding. Mine is in the perfect color for me (burgundy) and we did a little fashion show to try them on
for size. We met more of the family outside while they were peeling some small onions and we joined right on in. I must note
that onion-peeling is not something I specialize in. The women actually started laughing when they saw me ‘crying’. Little do
they know that this was nothing - I used to have to wear my chemistry goggles to cut onions while in college because my eyes
are that sensitive to the onion juices.
We lounged for a bit in our houseboat and then Feroz came to pick us up to show us some of Srinagar. We had another person
along for the ride – Imy who is Feroz’s cousin who is also getting married this week (this is a joint wedding celebration). He has
been living in Sydney for the past 12 years but has recently moved back to Delhi with his family. And now he’s getting married.
To a girl he kind of knows but doesn’t really know. It was a bit unclear but I think he kind of knows who she is but it doesn’t
sound like she knows him. Anyway, it was great to now know both of the people getting married this week – I am no longer
going to the wedding of strangers!
Feroz started our Srinagar tour at these gardens (totally forget the name) that overlooked the lake. So colorful and beautiful –
and it was made even more colorful with all of the women’s attire. Then we headed through a security checkpoint to make our
way up a beautiful road lined with trees that were changing colors that took us to Pari Mahal – another beautiful gardeny area
overlooking the lake, a golf course and the surrounding areas. We stayed up there for the sunset.
Just because the sun was gone, that didn’t mean that our tour was over. Feroz wanted to show us another lake – this one was a
busier one than we were staying on with loads of houseboats. We had families in boats waving to us and saw other lovebirds
taking an evening stroll on the lake in their chauffeured gondola.
We went to Feroz’s house for dinner where we had dinner with his family. His sons were barely aware of our existence because
they were busy switching between cricket and Bollywood music videos on the television. I was actually excited that I
recognized ‘SRK’ in one of the videos – he is ‘the’ actor out here who was in the Bollywood movie I saw last year.
After dinner, Feroz and Imy came back with us to our houseboat. We sat and chatted for a while asking them questions all
about life in India and the marriage customs. We were learning quite a bit. For example, I had no idea that Feroz had
absolutely no idea who Shazia was or what she looked like until the day of their marriage. Such a crazy concept!
Gotta get some shut-eye as we need to wake up early for the veggie market!!!
October 22, 2007
An early morning. A very early morning.
We woke up at 4:30 am all in the name of seeing vegetables being sold. Crazy? Yes. But it still seemed like a cool thing to do.
We boarded our ‘Indian gondola’ (as I like to call it) for a starlit ride to the veggie market. First of all, who knew India could be
so cold? We arrived at the ‘market’ which was kind of like a gondola cul-de-sac. Gondolas carrying mostly lotus roots were
using this as a turn-around point. The sheer colorlessness of the water, the building, the men’s outfits and the vegetables was
actually quite captivating to me. It seemed like it could have been a scene from decades ago. Our gondola sat on the side while
we watched locals come and go doing their daily thing. The only thing of color that I saw all morning were the gondolas there
transporting bundles of flowers. Talk about a sharp contrast to the browns and greens. We also had the self-proclaimed
‘Delicious Man’ make a stop our way. How can you not buy something from ‘The Delicious Man’? We bought some candy and
cookies from him (that we would find out a few minutes later were anything but delicious). We came away empty-handed
when it came to vegetables – after all, what are we going to do with lotus roots and cabbage?
On our way back home, we were now seeing everything in daylight. It reminded me a bit of Vietnam with the boats rowing
their way through the water and a slight layer of mist in the air. And then there was a man who practically ran into our boat
because he was rowing so fast. He was older and nothing but smiles. He wanted us to take his picture. His demeanor was really
too cute to even describe. After taking his picture, he wanted rupees. Fair enough. We gave him ten (what our guide
suggested). He tried to get more out of us. We laughed and shook our heads. He laughed, too, and was rowing on his way.
Christine was a bit taken aback with the way people expect rupees out here for such interactions – I told her it’s all part of it
and that she should expect a lot more of that in the future countries that she’s visiting on her travels. After all, we are receiving
a certain service for the money. By taking pictures of these locals, we are almost exploiting the poverty-level conditions that
they live in. We don’t mean it in that way, of course. But it’s so unreal to us that it becomes something that is so picturesque.
When we got back here, we were beyond freezing and numb. We just wanted a nice fire and heater. Ha! Yeah, right. We would
have to settle for bundling up in a blanket in our beds. And this is where I am typing this from as we wait for Mohammed to
tell us that tea and breakfast are ready for us…
We went into town today and booked our Varanasi tickets. Feels so good to have that done. Afterwards we decided to go
shopping in town – we bought some wedding cards, baked goods for Feroz’s family and Christine found a great shirt. It was a
very ‘Indian market’ kind of area and neither of us saw any other foreigners. All of the vendors were so sweet. Even though it
was very typical of a lot of what we saw in Delhi, there was nothing frustrating or ‘I need to get outta here now’ about it.
Always a good way to feel while in India.
When we got back the street was filled with wedding decorations for a neighbor’s wedding. The family was so sweet – they
wanted us to take pictures of them. (It’s actually funny with the majority of Indians because they are such smiley people but
when it comes time for them to be photographed, they have the most serious looks on their faces. They truly look like different
When we reached the Baktoo household, we saw that the henna was beginning to get underway.
A couple days ago I had Delhi all over me; now I had Srinagar all over me. While I was in the shower, I thought of life’s three
simplest pleasures that make me the happiest: a hot shower, a great night’s sleep and a gorgeous sunset. What a simple person
I am. Ha!
Now I am about to head off to get some artwork on my hands.
Tonight the wedding festivities began to take place. Can’t wait for more!
October 25, 2007
I love days when you aren't prepared to do much of anything and you end up coming home with a bag of loot! That's what
We started off by hanging out by the lake. Much more peaceful than I would have thought. Lunchtime brought us back to the
Lal Chouk area where we went the other day. We stuck with the same restaurant since that really seems to be the only
restaurant of any quality in the whole city.
And then he hit a jackpot on this one street when it came to shopping. We had honest shopkeepers who didn't mind if we
bought things or walked away. I ended up coming home with a black-and-white Kashmiri wool shawl, a jade necklace and a
After the wedding tonight, our trekking guide Totah (a nickname) came by our boat. He wanted to show us the jewelry that he
sells. I wasn't expecting much. But I ended up really liking his stash of stuff. I walked away with a garnet necklace, a silver ring
and some black sandstone earrings. And I worked quite a deal!
And that pretty much wrapped up my time in the state of Kashmir...
Some houseboats in the lake.