27 August 2009

"My shangri-la beneath the summer moon, I will return again" --- from Kashmir by Led Zeppelin

A week in Kashmir, and my heart is filled with peace. This stunning valley is the most serene place i've ever been, and the only place in India where that word truly applies. We are staying on a houseboat on the sprawling Dal Lake, a beautiful, mirror-flat, winding lake, green with lotus leafs, and for the most part pristine. Our houseboat is spectacular and the food amazingly terrific. it is run by Yusef, the brother of Baba, our hotelier in Dharamsala, and their father was a cook for Doctors without Borders. Yusef (like his brother) couldn't be more sweet, and he's a fantastic cook, having learned from his father. We actually had roast chicken and potatoes and spinach last night, and it was real, fresh and delicious. first meat i've had here; it reminded me of the chicken dinner i had in belize for the (faux) millennial new year, when we met the chicken that day and ate it the same night.
to get anywhere, you get on a little rowboat called a shikara, they have cushions and canopies and radios powered by car batteries. they just row you around the lake. sunsets are spectacular. and there are other shop-boats, that row by you and sell you juice or water or cookies. or saffron, or paper-mache items, or jewelry. the boat rides are incredibly peaceful and lovely.

Kashmir is totally muslim, and they say it feels more like iran or afghanistan than most of india. for the last 20 years there has been "trouble", as they like to call it, but it's peaceful now, more or less, and the plus is that it hasn't been developed in the last 20 years the way that the rest of touristed india has been. so it still has an old world feel, with 150 year old wooden buildings and a less crowded feeling, even on land. and i enjoy greeting people with "salaam aleichem" almost as much as with "namaste".
I'll write more later on Kashmir, including impressions of all the mosques, and some differences between hindu and muslim culture, as i've seen them. and i'll post pictures, and maybe even a surprise video of me water-skiing on dal lake, insha'allah (god willing).