The sun had begun melting away.
As the distance grew between our houseboat and us, we saw a slew of shikaras heading our way. As they reached us, my fascination peaked. I was taken aback. For it wasn’t an encroachment into my personal space, the otherwise familiar impact for which I had braced myself, as may be experienced in India usually. What surrounded me were polite requests, almost docile, to look into beautiful jewelry pieces, saffron, flowers, and photo-ops in the local Kashmiri costume.
I was surprised to find that I wasn’t serenaded, and allowed my own personal space. Out of respect, I delved into the jewelry, the one thing that had latched onto my fascination.
Drifting away, we found ourselves approaching an ‘alley’ of sorts. An alley where the lotus plantations, extending till as far as the eyes could wander, seemed to have been sundered by the frequent passage of shikaras.
An ethereal experience.
I could not help wonder about life in one such house. Literally existing on stilts. The daily chores and associated difficulties. Ironically, it was the simplicity of this life that made me ache. A very sharp ache that told me I wanted the same. That people who tried to tell me otherwise were wrong. During summers, waking up early morning and rowing out to reap fresh vegetables and lotuses off a floating market, sell them during the day, and have a satisfying humble meal at night. And a white winter!
Before long, my reverie was broken as I saw a distant shikara approaching us.
As it came close, I almost could lean over and look – there were vegetables in it. He was off to sell them. I wanted to jump right into that boat there and then and let him row me off to the very vegetable market he was off to. Sigh!
Our boatman rowed on, the gentle sound of the oars jostling the waters caressing my ears. We seemed to be entering a cluster of houses.
Just another neighborhood inhabited by man. Except that water swirled beneath the houses. And lotuses and water lilies grew all around. And the children didn’t learn to climb trees as easily as they did rowing a boat or fishing, or may be swim like one!
Replete the cluster was with houses, a grocery shop, a wooden bridge on stilts on which men hung around fishing, or chatting away the evenings, and another delicate looking bridge to cross over from one side of a watery crossroads to another!
A way of life.
Whose poetic side wouldn’t be unleashed amidst such unparalleled beauty?