Beyond the ‘tourist Dal’ is a secret world of farmers, families, fishermen – all living off the lake.
The ‘hidden Dal’ is where fishermen put their nets into the waters, farmers grow vegetables on floating gardens, and children paddle shikaras every day to school. The sound of water ripples seem to stream into your subconscious with supreme subtlety.
An estimated of 60,000 people live inside the lake. Few tourists ever venture this far, and not even many Kashmiris drop by either. As we paddle our way from the familiar pond to the Dal’s interiors, we glide past an old wooden bridge, mainly used in winters when temperature mercury dips to -10 and the lake freezes. The bridge is the only source at that time to go to the other side as shikaras can hardly be used in the freezy water. Limpid pools, green canopies, deep waters and a strange drug-like calm all come together as you row away from the houseboat promenade.
We realise that we are no longer onlookers. It is a place of unreal beauty, and we are at one with it—like the lotus flowers we are drifting away from. The Dal just takes over, dream like.