Kashmir: Nageen Lake – leaving

It has taken months of work to rescue the hull of an old houseboat which now lies in a cut and restore it. It’s nearly finished and our friend is very keen that we should see it before we go. The whole boat is made from Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodara) noted for its rot resistant characteristics. The carpenters quickly make a neat bridge between these two boats that parted in the storm.
It is truly fantastic. The num or verandah leads to a huge lounge which will have a chandelier in the ceiling backed by a six-foot diameter ornate dish, then a dining room followed by four magnificent bedroom suites. But the most remarkable feature is the carving, every panel is carved and each room features something special, a chinar tree, paisley design and my favourite the Kashmir garden. The last will have a massive four-poster bed. And there is a suite above. Putting the flood behind them everyone is working flat out to get this unique masterpiece into use. Hopefully pictures to follow.

Nageen lake after the rain

Nageen Lake

The water is going down fast even though the sluices at Dal Gate are damaged. The emotional tension is easing and we have booked a flight from the reopened Srinagar airport. It’s time to get ready which means a bucket bath (water boiled in a giant pan on the roof) and some casual packing. We have got to know this family very well in a short time and feel part of it. But we are leaving for safer places whilst they have to rebuild their lives and business. Several have ant bites that have become infected, a damaged shoulder when saving someone from drowning, spectacles lost in the water just after an eye operation, bruises from a fall and so on. We leave what medication we can. As ever they are cheerful and we are sad to be leaving.

In the morning we are taken by a canoe boat along the lake and slide into the mud bank, climb up to a waiting car. Our journey involves a few detours and the true impact of this disaster becomes clear; a small sunlit vegetable market on dry land is reassuring, a dual carriageway with the wide central reservation full of makeshift tarpaulin and polythene tents, the people look numb. No sanitation, no water, unmanned first aid posts, no local officials etc. Everything seems to have been left to the Indian Army. Two wheels on the kerb and two in deep water but on the road. The Hospital seems just about open, a cemetery washed open and bodies exposed, a sheep wanders about and the stench of death is unbearable. Many housing areas in the city are flooded and these parts are low-lying which will need pumping out. Lots of teenagers wandering around and not knowing what to do, just wait until the floods go down.

After twenty years of militancy and uncertain political power, economic recovery was underway. This catastrophe is a cruel blow. We will go back in November nonetheless.

From my diary – 17 September 2014

4 thoughts on “Kashmir: Nageen Lake – leaving

  1. Sue Walker

    Your posts are so moving – thank you. A privilege to have been so well-looked after by your hosts. Your photographic record will be very special.

    Reply
  2. Eileen Scholes

    Truly evocative, Mike. Both you and Jean would have made good war zone reporters. You have a knack for maintaining your observational and recording abilities despite being under personal strain. I am left only to imagine how you felt during the downpours and how you managed to get up and down and in and out of boats, even up muddy banks. PS Nice picture of Queen Victoria paddling by you on Lake Nageen.

    Reply
  3. David Stacey

    Your website is excellent and beautifully laid out. I really enjoyed reading your latest postings on Kashmir and I hope you will be able to include some of your excellent photos in a new book on the region.

    Reply

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