For this Friday’s sky watch I had to once again rummage through my old folders. I went to Srinagar twice this year, one in June and once in September. And I was almost caught in the floods in September. In all I have been to Kashmir three times now. But I still feel I have seen too little of the region.
How I wish I could say that took this picture while around the lake. The truth is I was stuck in a traffic jam by the lake when I clicked this picture. I clicked it sitting in the vehicle itself, on my cell phone!
When I actually walked around the lake, it was during the day when the sun was harsh and pictures quite flat. When the light was good I was stuck in a traffic jam! How do you react when you find yourself unable to take pictures properly when the light is good? I sulk quite badly and it happens to me so many times.
The view of Srinagar from Pari Mahal is awesome. Pari Mahal is actually a garden rather than a mahal (palace). In a way I envy the couple, sitting with each-other with such a fabulous view in front of them! They so seem to be into the scene and enjoying each-other’s company. No worrying about manual mode and camera settings for them!
If you are fond of clicking pictures, do you ever feel that you are almost always chasing pictures instead of enjoying the scene? Do you ever put down the camera to enjoy the moment? If yes, how do you manage to do that? You have to tell me the secret.
I am so very fond of bird photography. It is just that I am not fond of getting up early in the morning with the sun and the birds. And the birds like to give ‘darshan’ (audience) either early in the morning or in the evening. This time at Srinagar I did manage to wake up early morning on day 2 of the trip, to visit the floating vegetable market at Dal Lake.
And that day I managed to click some birds too. So, for this lazy Sunday I bring you a sparrow at Dal Lake playing among the lotus leafs. If you ask me, it is mandatory to get up early one morning while you stay at the Dal Lake. The character of the lake is quite different early morning.
The early morning sun gives the lake a glow. It should have been a golden glow but there were too many clouds. But there was a glow none the less. In the mornings, the lake is less crowded. The trade and tourist traffic picks up as the day becomes old. It is much more serene in the mornings. You can stand in the cool breeze and take it slow, preferably with a cup of kahwa.
Then there are the food and flower shikaras gliding through the waters early in the morning. They sell flowers to tourists and house boats. Similarly the foo shikaras sell breakfast to tourists who are up and about at that hour. I regret that I did not try any foodstuff from the shikaras. They go from house boat to house boat in the morning hours.
An added bonus was watching the birds as well. There was a time when I clicked a lot of birds, not of late. Time to try and get up early at least on one morning of each trip!
Obscene and early morning are closely associated words for me. The only exception to this rule is trekking when I go to sleep at 8. 00 pm and wake up bright at 5.00 am. However, in interest of photography and seeking new experiences I sometimes make an effort to wake up early even otherwise. I woke up at 4.45 am so that I could go and visit the floating vegetable market at Dal Lake in Srinagar. It was also quite rare that even though I slept off at around 11.00 pm I woke up quite fresh.
The morning ride on the shikara to the vegetable market was quite a thing of beauty in itself. While going to the market there was hardly any movement on the lake. There were two shikaras from our houseboat. Other than that it was peace and quiet. I met Mr. Wonderful Flowerman with his boat full of flowers somewhere close to the floating market. I told him I may buy something when we return. His shikara was a sight to behold. But onward we went to the vegetable market.
We must have reached there around 6.00 am. The market was not very big, that is the first thing I could register. The second thing I noticed that there were other tourist boats, maybe 3-4 more. By Indian definitions that was not crowded or touristy at all. This is a local vegetable market where wholesale vendors sell to retail vendors. Because of the tourists a few boats sell flowers and snacks too. I now regret that I did not try the snacks.
The local men were used to the tourists. They would tolerate us with mild amusement I guess. Shikaras jostle with each-other in the local market. They make way by pushing and nudging the boats. By the end of the trip I too nudged a shikara out of the way and no one even noticed!
After spending close to an hour it was time to head back to the house boat where we were staying. I stood at the front of the shikara, not right at the pointed edge, but the flat part where I could balance and not fall again with my camera in the water. With a gentle wind in the air the weather felt heavenly, more so as I was coming from Gurgaon. With almost all the lake and the whole shikara to myself it felt doubly good. I could click the houseboats floating on the lake in peace. I am told there are about 1200 houseboats at the Dal Lake and another 600 or so at Nagin Lake.
On our way back I met Mr. Wonderful Flowerman again. He persuaded me to buy some flower seeds for which he quoted me $10 in Indian rupees. I told him not to quote me the foreigner rate as I do not earn in dollars. I guess I payed way too much for some seeds that I am yet to plant. But if they flower I will surely post a picture.
His name was Irfan and he stayed in Hazratbal. He had a big farm that his family used for growing flowers. He said the men (they have 3 boats by the same name, Mr. Wonderful Flowerman) wake up at 4.00 am, row their shikara for about two hours to reach Dal Lake. After selling the flowers till 11.30 am, they then row back to Hazratbal. Next time if I meet him I will tell him to take me on his shikara to Hazratbal, if he felt it was safe!