Wednesday, March 10, 2010

**KASHMIR** The SilverBell

Welcome to the wonderful HB SILVERBELL. My home for 2 months. A houseboat of peace and wonder. Where dreams meet reality or reality meets dreams - not quite sure which is which anymore. Either way, it has been a Winter wonderland for me, and the transition into Spring blooms new hopes, sunshine, and birds. Oh the birds! The Silverbell, floating on the majestic Nigin Lake, is situated in the Srinagar Valley, within the Himilayan mountains enmeshed in every direction.

Come night time, witnessing the houseboat and the shikara, Kashmiri for canoe, on Nigin Lake is too real to comprehend. Each night I return for sleep, I stare out onto the lake still stunned that life here exists the way it actually exists. But first comes mealtime.For the first feast at the Dandoo household, the family becomes thrilled when I enter the eating room with my farend on. A farend is the winter time poncho worn by both men and women. Though looking like a dress, this wollen garb actually provides not only comfort and style, but heat as well. In the photo below, you can see that within the farend, one places what is called a Konger, or mini fire in a hand made straw basket. (Sorry you have to see my pasty white legs). A portable heating system with the potential for disaster. One time, while sitting on the veranda of the houseboat, I was listening to some music, but with one earjack in, and the other tucked away. I soon realized that the other wasn't exactly tucked away, instead it roasting in the konger. I thought I had smelled some burning, and now I listen to my music with just one earjack. Well, besides the accidents, the konger, or Winter Wife, as Manzoor calls it, becomes my ally during the cold times.

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