November 10, 1961 – Kashmir

Floating Houseboats, Srinagar, Kashmir – Clear

     As I opened my eyes I could tell why they had the stoves in each room because there was a definite chill in the air which the stove helped to keep at bay mostly.  Our breakfast in our little dining room was delightful.  We had a good old American meal of eggs, potatoes and steak but with an Indian flavor to it.  I loved it. 

      Before we left on our tour this morning riding Shikares, we had a little time after eating so I decided to add some more to my letter to Ramona.  As I pulled it out of my purse I noticed Edith saw me and frowned:

      Later Nov 10, 1961.  Well this letter will be finished sometime I hope. 

     We are in Srinagar, Kashmir.  This is fabulous.  We are on house boats 5 to a boat.  Edith and I, Flo and Eva, Wanda – all good company.  We couples have a bedroom and bath, Wanda has a room to herself.  We have a dining room and a living room.  Our meals are the best we’ve had.  We are so comfortable here. 

     We’ve been looking at furs, Cashmere and material for coat suits and dresses.  I almost bought an Ermine jacket hat and scarf for Pat – $30.  I’m not sure she’d like it or it would fit.  Scarves are from $6 to $10. 

     We ride around the water in Shikara’s (little) boats.  Yesterday Edith, Flo and I got in a little pony cart called a Dongas.  I took a picture of Eva in her Donga.  Today we are going in a Shikara for our tour of the country.  The traders all bring their wares to the house boat – very interesting.  The lake is beautiful and I will probably take lots of repeat pictures.  I took a group of maple trees that had turned such a beautiful color of red. 

     Oh yes we have a little pot bellied stove in the middle of each room and last night when I crawled in the cold bed a hot water bottle was waiting for me.  Feelamnabi our boy lights the fires at 7 am then we get up at 7:30am and it is very cold here.  Frost on everything this morning.

     Edith called out that it was time to leave so I put my letter away again and made ready to leave.  Edith, Flo and I rode in one Shikara and the rest in other boats.  As we headed to our first tour stop there was an accident when our boat got hit by another one and almost tipped over.  For several seconds our boat bounced back and forth before it finally settled down fully upright again.  It was a truly scary moment for all three of us and left us unsettled for the rest of our trip.  I knew that if I had wound up in the water that I would never be the same again.  I knew I could swim but I didn’t know for sure how well I would do with the wool suit and coat I had chosen to wear today.  The “driver” for our little row boat worked so hard to calm us down that I felt sorry for him.  He succeeded, more or less, so we continued on our way with the others for our tour.  Some people told me later that they couldn’t swim so they were very nervous after our mishap.

     Our tour on the Shikaras got to be more fun as we got more into our tour and settled down.  We found that Lake Dal lies in a beautiful valley called the Vale of Kashmir and had many wondrous things to see.  On the lake we saw the Floating Gardens which seemed like a fantasy to us.  Gulum told us that the lotus flowers had finished blooming but that we might see people who were harvesting their roots for food. 

Vale of Kashmir

     Silver Island was our next stop and I found it to be a real treat to visit.  On the little island there were many wonderful China Trees which were showing their fall colors of red and yellow.  They reminded me of the Maple trees back home that people flocked to see in the northeast at the end of summer.  Gulam told us that the China Tree leaves are traditionally gathered to make charcoal for fuel during the cold climate.  When I asked him how it was used he went onto explain that the natives fill the clay pots inside the baskets they have with hot charcoal made from the burned leaves to carry under their cloaks.  Then at night he added the people put the pot under their bed where it continues to burn and heat it up.  I found it fascinating how they used things here. 

China Trees on Silver Island

     We continued on our way through some locks onto the Jhelum River where we found people living on houseboats and several stores on both sides of the river.  Many of the buildings looked very poor and like you would find in a slum.  It was amazing how much life teemed along the river.  I found riding on the river very relaxing.

Locks on Canal of Thelum River

Another View of Locks on Canal of Thelum River

Native Houseboats

Gulam and Flo Traveling on the Thelum Canal

Another View of Gulam and Flo on the Thelum Canal

Wood Paper Mache Factories on the Canal

     After touring the locks we returned to shore where we traveled by car to the Mogul Gardens that had been laid out by the Emperor Shah Jehan.  While there we visited the Shalimar Gardens (abode of love) and had a chance to walk around and see things.  The chrysanthemums were in bloom and the fountains had been turned on so the whole place was so beautiful.  We were told that the fountains were only turned on once a week due to the water shortage.  The gardens were so enchanting.

Shalimar Gardens

Another View of Shalimar Gardens

Third View of Shalimar Gardens

     Driving back to our little home away from home at the end of day we passed several little markets where people were selling things.  We didn’t get a chance to stop and shop but it was amazing to watch people as we passed by. 

Kashmir Shopping Street

Man with Material for Sale

     We all felt pretty good when we returned to our little houseboat but we were starved and ready for dinner.  I also was ready for a quiet evening to recuperate.  Our dinner was just as good as the night before and just like the previous night our group played cards.  I enjoyed the time very much but I was tired.

     I decided to turn in for the night before Edith did and when I crawled between the sheets I was very happy to find another hot water bottle waiting for me.  I hadn’t been sure the night before if that was something they always did or if it was just a welcoming for our group.  But when I found the hot water bottle next to my feet it made me feel warm all over again and ready to sleep.


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