I have had many trips to Kashmir, to places that most people do not get a change to visit. But my experience living in a houseboat was yet to see daylight, until I planned a sudden, random trip to Srinagar. My uncountable number of friends and their warm homes had never allowed me to spend my nights elsewhere.
Houseboats are the most known or spoken-of authentic symbol about Kashmir. Every stall, poster, or movie about Kashmir would never miss adding a houseboat or Dal Lake into its glamour. Maybe I had seen too many houseboats, or maybe I knew that I will be making more trips in the future, so the houseboat life was always delayed.
It was in October; autumn had made its way in already. Leaves were turning golden and the air was crisp. Dal Lake was attracting more visitors daily. Over 15 km around, Dal Lake is Srinagar's jewel, a vast sheet of water reflecting the carved wooden balconies of the houseboats and the misty peaks of the Pir Panjal Mountains. The lake feeds the lives of those that live by it, all of them having smaller boats, known as ‘Shikaras’ that carry the children to school, adults to work and tourists around the floating market.