Friday, September 23, 2011

Checking In

Due to terror attacks India has made it mandatory for all hotels to check and preserve a copy of photo identity cards of its guests. When I landed in Srinagar, my driver straightaway took me from the airport to Shah Abbas, facing the picturesque Dal Lake. My room had been already booked through my friend Aamir. (Thank you Aamir for the wonderful travel plan you made for us.) As I reached the reception they asked me to fill a form mentioning my name, where I come from etc. When I took out my photo identity card to give it to them, they said they do not require it. I said, "But is it not mandatory that the visitors' ID cards must be checked and preserved?" The manager replied, "That is only in India, not in Kashmir. We want people to come, stay with us and spend time with us. So we do not harass people." It is surprising at the way he distinguished between India and Kashmir, and that in spite of so many terror attacks, (just couple of days before a bomb set in a suitcase had killed 17 people outside Delhi high court), this hotel had not learned anything. No wonder, at the same time, two young boys were detected to have sent e-mails claiming a particular terror group taking responsibility in the Delhi high court case, and the mails had been sent from a cyber cafe in Kishtwar in Kashmir, and the owner of the cyber cafe had not registered the names of the teenagers, although it is mandatory to do so. If money matters more than safety, we shall have none. (In picture: working in relaxed mode on the boathouse)

Waning Paradise - Melting Glaciers

Between 9 - 14 Sept I got an opportunity to be in Kashmir. First time in the so called "paradise on earth". The trip was highly eventful, about which I shall write in the next post. We had a good driver who took us around to some of the best places. But everyone had one thing to complain about: lack of rainfall and high amount of heat even in September, when it should have been cooler. The only place where we could see a bit of ice was in Sonemarg. But the weather was terribly hot, and the ice was in small patches on the glaciers. Thinking of climate change issues? I was talking to the horsemen who rent their horses at abnormally high price even for an hour's ride. The men said that even the horses are finding it difficult to walk in the heat and many of them suffer due to high exposure to sun. Though the evenings were cooler, we used fan in the boathouse so that we can have proper sleep. Kashmir still has the charm of miraculously changing weather which changes from a warm bright sunny day to a wet cold rainy time with very little warning. It almost comes without a warning. But for the paradise itself, it is waning. (In picture, a woman rows a boat in Dal lake to reach her son and sister to school)