Nigeen lake, a smaller lake adjacent and connected to the massive and flamboyant Dal lake, might be opined by many to be a much cleaner, quieter, serene destination. I was in love even as I stood at the ferry pick-up point. Boarding a shikara that would ferry us to our houseboat, I felt the familiar sense of missing out when there’s too much to notice all around, and you feel stunted possessing just one pair of eyes!
As far as I could see, lotus and lily plants floated, caressing the rippling waters, framed by blue mountains to one side, and the Hari Parbat Fort on the other, atop the hill from which it drew its name. As our shikara approached the houseboat, I felt blessed. It was in a snug corner of the lake, with a postcard finish view of the beauty all around. Wood carvings, chandeliers, and huge windows lining the length of the boat offered rich views of the lake – my camera went wild!
While returning from lunch – which had resulted in a stroll on the streets on an unusually hot Srinagar afternoon – we spotted a vendor on the quaint little bridge spanning the join between the Dal and Nigeen lakes. With a huge black umbrella shielding him from the early evening sun as he squatted selling his strange looking wares, the number of evenings he must have spent dodging the sun from striking him straight in the eye showed in his wrinkles and the tan. My familiar curiosity led me by the hand and we walked up to him. Pambach – the local name for seeds of the lotus plant – seeds that are to be popped in like pills, seeds that taste like the water chestnuts or singhara, as they are more popularly known in India – was what he was selling. He bought me a cluster. Looking out onto the warm sunlight bathing the overlooking hills, I had the pambach.