Beautiful Srinagar

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.

Dal Lake, Srinagar
Dal Lake, Srinagar #Lumia1020

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.

A couple at Pari Mahal, Srinagar
Pari Mahal, Srinagar #Canon550D

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.

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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.

A Sparrow at Dal Lake
A Sparrow at Dal Lake

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!

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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.

Dal Lake, Srinagar
Dal Lake, Srinagar #lumia1020

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.

The Floating Vegetable Market, Dal Lake, Srinagar
The Floating Vegetable Market, Dal Lake, Srinagar #canon550D

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.

A Shikara in the Floating Vegetable Market
A Shikara in the Floating Vegetable Market #Lumia1020

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!

A House Boat at the Dal Lake, Srinagar
A House Boat at the Dal Lake, Srinagar #canon550D

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.

A Shikara Full of Flowers
A Shikara Full of Flowers #lumia1020

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!

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I have said this often, I am not too keen on street photography. I am quite scared of clicking people. And yet I am fascinated by it too. On this trip to Kashmir, I met fellow blogger Siddhartha Joshi. We went on a small walk by the Dal Lake in Srinagar. The guy knows no fear while photographing people! Some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on me too, and I present to you in this post Kashmiri Men, no less!

Not only Siddharta photographs people, he talks to them as well, showing them the images. I am not sure if I will try this again unless I have intrepid company like Siddhartha’s but I am tempted. After all, street photography is so rewarding only if I could muster up the courage!

man-srinagar
Engrossed in his Own Thoughts!

I will admit once again, I chickened out and used a 75-300 mm zoom to take these pictures, no way I was going to step closer to click people. Standing by a shikara was this Kashmiri man, quite engrossed in his own thoughts. He never gave any acknowledgements even if he figured out that I was taking his pictures. I like such men, why make a fuss if someone is clicking your picture? And why make a fuss when she is already so scared!

Shikara-owner
He Knew What I Was Up To!

He was talking normally on his phone when he spotted me executing my antics. He was really nice about it, he started laughing and never gave any signs that he would shoo me off! Now I need to remember such incidents the next time when I am hesitating to click people pictures! I liked the way he kept a tea pot with him, after all he had to go through a long day!

Waiting
Waiting with Infinite Patience

This man was waiting patiently for something/someone with his shopping by his side. He too probably did not figure out I was clicking him or else like the person in the first picture decided to ignore it completely. I moved on after a while, I hope his wait was a short one.

Tea Stall Owner by the Dal Lake
Tea Stall Owner by the Dal Lake

After walking for a while Siddhartha and I stopped at his tea stall to have a cup of tea. He asked us how much sugar we wanted in our tea and expected our answer ‘kaam chini’ or less sugar. I asked him if I could click his picture and he readily agreed. As you can see he was not camera conscious!

Good Looking Kashmiri Man
Good Looking Kashmiri Man

We spotted him sitting with a group of men by the lake. After clicking the pictures, Siddhartha went to him and said, see how handsome you look, quite like Hrithik Roshan! I also told him, ‘darte darte meine bhi eak kincha hai’ (even though I was scared I too clicked a picture of yours!). He smiled at me too.

Not Asleep
Not Asleep!

But the best was a man sleeping in his shikara, I stood quite confidently and started clicking. As I was about to press the button he made a V sign! We both had a good laugh at it! I didn’t click him any more.

So, thank you Siddhartha for talking me along on this walk and for the tea. It was fun actually and I think I should muster up all my courage and try it more!

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