A photographer’s life is full of adventure. But it’s physically trying and a lot of the times, risky. On this particular day it was cake walk, as it was the launch of Jammu Kashmir People’s Movement. It’s nice to bump into all the photographers, who one usually only meets under more strenuous circumstances. But hanging around fraternising isn’t my cup of tea!
So after the launch I took a stroll on the Bund and eat at the island restaurant. There’s seating on the deck but there were a group of boys busy taking pictures of themselves…I didn’t want to spoil their frame. So I sat inside, which was quite interesting. I ordered some noodles and watched couple after couple, walking in. Part of the room had demarcations between tables made with cane which were like small cubicles, that give the utmost privacy to young adults who don’t want the entire city to know, who they are hanging out with. It reminded me of my first solo, horrific trip to Srinagar. So some fellow (like I always say, if you don’t want trouble stray clear of the wealthy men in Kashmir) who had apparently visited the Osho Ashram, was taking me around town. After a trip to Shalimar, we went to some restaurant to eat. Of course it had this kind of privacy and of course the meal and conversation was meant to flatter me but they didn’t.
Surrounded by water, the landing for speed boats makes it accessible from various parts of the city. I should have been on one of them, rather than strolling through the busy Sunday market and then walking up towards the Jhelum.
Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar
There are a number of activities one can enjoy in Srinagar- go for a shikara ride, paragliding, take a bus ride on the hop on-hop off, visit the floating post office but the winter, especially the chilian kalan-forty days of the cold, put a damper on everything. Since most of the locals leave for the summer capital of Jammu and there are hardly any tourists around, everything kind of comes to a halt. But the museum is open-sort of.
Though the new wing is yet to be inaugurated and the old building is closed to the public, one is pleasantly surprised. A few years ago I had sent an article to GK (which was never printed), about how mismanaged the museum was, with broken cases and bukharis being used close to national treasures.
The staff remains primarily the same so it still not like a nice, quiet, well organised place but it’s a great initiative, a must see for the different kinds of galleries. On the ground floor are the Archeology gallery, Numismatics Gallery and the museum shop. On the first floor are the Culture and Society, Jewellery, Arms and Armory and Decorative Arts Galleries. On the second floor which is at the moment non functional, are the Textile and Painting galleries.
Pakeeza Restaurant, Rajbagh.
Though there are a number of fancy restaurants in Srinagar that serve the wazwan- kashmiri cuisine, which consists of various non vegetarian dishes like seekh kabab, rista, gushtaba, tabak-maaz,waze kokur, kashmir methi etc, eating at a local dhaba has it’s own charm.
The best rista I’ve ever had, is at a local nameless dhaba close to Ganderbal. The Pakeeza restaurant in Rajbagh, which comes a close second also serves the juiciest gushtabas and the lahabi kabab is to die for. The two young waiters from neighbouring villages, always have the tele on, so one can enjoy a meal, while watching some old bollywood flick.
Gulshan Books, Srinagar
After a day spent in Gulmarg, I’m feverish and all I want to do is spend a day in bed with a book. So I head to the best place in Srinagar to find one.
Gulshan Books is a quaint bookstore on Residency Road. It’s the place to find practically, any book that has been written about the Valley. I was heartbroken when it got damaged during the floods but it’s revamped version is even better.
Though, now there’s a cafe on the Boulevard too, I prefer the familarity of this one. Plus, with my ADD( it’s an assumption), I find it difficult to concentrate on a book, in public spaces. I buy a copy of Rahul Pandita’s, ‘Our moon has blood clots’.On the 19th of January, the Kashmiri Pandit community marked their 27th year in exile, from the Valley and Pandita’s book narrates the pain ofthat displacement.I head back to my apartment for an afternoon of reading.