Back on the Manora Houseboat on Dal Lake, we inhaled a beer, bathed and chatted during dinner with Charlotte and Frances, crewel carpet buyers who come to Kashmir twice a year to consult with manufacturers and stock up to sell their wares in Europe. They gave us important pointers on what shops to visit and what to buy. Carpets and Pashminas have always been the big draws along with papier mache. Charlotte also suggested we don’t eat the cake houseboy Sadiq made because the cream stands around in the heat all day. ‘Nuff said.
Impossible for me to sleep at all while thoughts of carpets, papier mache, and who knows what else spun through my mind like a gerbil on a wheel. How in heavens name was I going to accomplish any shopping for five children and us in only a few short hours? We had an early flight to catch from Srinigar to Jaipur via Delhi today that gave me a minimal amount of time. Who knew if, or when, we’d ever have another chance to return to Kashmir. How prophetic that was!
In the meantime, ex-Marine had been itching like crazy since the trek and now we discovered the reason. Little fleas had been feasting on his body and living in his wool jacket. Probably infested when he hung his jacket by the fireplace to dry in the shepherd’s hut or guesthouse. Sunshine would take care of those little pests.
We shikara’d over to the mainland as early as possible in the morning and I went into a shopping frenzy trying to pick out seven small crewel rugs out of the hundreds the merchant kept throwing on the floor. “Do you think Tracy would like this one? How about that for Robbie? Do you remember what colors Paula likes?” Worked my way to “Suffering Moses” (the renowned papier mache artist) while ex-Marine stood in the background vibrating, and having a psychotic meltdown…“we’re going to miss our plane…move it…pick one…why do you have to buy for the kids…forget the kids…move it…” until the salesman said, “Sir, you are going to have a heart attack.” Purchases wrapped up and back in the shikara, I promptly burst into tears, hysterical that he had ruined my one and only chance to shop in Kashmir and cried all the way to the plane.
It so happened that our plane from Delhi to Jaipur was late and I never had a chance to shop in Jaipur either. FYI: Jaipur is one of India’s great shopping destinations. We also had to pay overweight baggage. Rugs are heavy…
About one week later, there was an article in the India Times about the flood situation…… flood situation grave in three states. The official report said that a major portion of Anantnag town had been submerged. The national highway had also been submerged in several places. This was not rainy season and was an unusual occurence. The rains covered Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir…
I encourage you to consider a visit to Kashmir while this lull in hostilities continues. It would be difficult to find a more stunning locale then Kashmir with extremely hospitable people and excellent trekking for all abilities. Another article about Kashmir just appeared in the Financial Times basically repeating what I’ve said in these articles. This writer also suggested renting a houseboat on Nigeen Lake (much cleaner then Dal Lake) but whichever lake you decide on, you may want to stay at a hotel the first night and take a shikara ride around the lake to pick your houseboat. Not a bad idea… Kashmir is magnificent! And, if you do visit…leave time to shop!