Going down from Patnitop to Srinagar is like skydiving. You get the best view of the valley when you are higher up. By the time you get to the bottom of the mountainous path, it would have gotten to you - the imposing aura of a gargantuan gimmick of nature that wouldn't budge until all hell broke loose. The build up is perfect. We stopped at a roadside shack for breakfast. As the two of us settled into the crude comfort of a wooden bench facing the fireplace where our chaiwala boiled tea leaves, a herd of mountain goats marked in saffron, made their way through the crawling traffic. While relishing the roti and dal he offered us, little did we imagine that our next meal would be at ten in the night. We got to know from the news that a harthal was declared in Srinagar to protest against the beef issue which was at its peak at the time. Just before we entered the city, there was a blockade on the way. Azal unintentionally followed a truck that took a diversion moments before the road we were on, got closed. We simply got lucky. At Lethapora, a village on the outskirts, we stopped to buy some saffron (kesar) and dry fruits from Gulistan Kesar House. The price is half of that back home and the quality is impeccable. We reached Srinagar a little after three in the afternoon. Our stay for the night was booked at New Jersey Houseboat on Nigeen Lake. Nigeen or Nagin is one of the four basins of Dal lake, referred to as the 'Jewel in the crown of Kashmir' due to its popularity and commercial significance. We checked into our room - a maroon, richly embellished, carpeted space with a Kashmiri getup. A sit out was fashioned around the foredeck of the boat, from where we could gaze at the waters mirroring all that stood on its surface. Living and dining rooms, adorned with antique furniture, transported us to the interiors of an affluent mahal with a Persian influence. The houseboat could easily accommodate a large family in its many rooms. Sammy hopped on the boat, raring to go in. We had to lock her up in the carpeted washroom for fear of her fur soiling the carpets and upholstery. As a welcome gesture, we were served a cup of homegrown Kahwah, lightly fragrant and exotically spiced to tantalize the senses.