Paddling the Shikhara
Srinagar Travel Blog› entry 32 of 41 › view all entries
Their hefty weight and flat bottom made shikaras very stable and their wide paddle produced enormous torque. Sitting as far aft as possible - and after days of practice - I learned to control speed and direction as well as most of the locals on the lake, paddling on either side.
I locked on to my target which was moving southeast at half a mile and set up a trajectory for an interception near the houseboat New Niel Armstrong. The pair of brawny cargo shikharas, tied tightly together, were loaded with cardboard boxes, burlap bundles, and cases of Thumbs Up and Campa Cola in bottles. Their gunnels bobbed just inches above the waterline. Bhul-Bhul squatted at the bow of one boat making surprising speed for home.
Bhul-Bhul operated a much smaller grocery shikhara all over the lake.
"How was Gulmarg?" he shouted as I approached at fifteen yards. "Beautiful..." I responded, “… but it's good to be home!" I steered his course and closed beside him at three feet, thrusting on the outboard side so that our paddles wouldn't clash. In close formation we rounded the south end of the lake. We glided into a narrow channel and followed green lotus gardens toward his red-brick, two-story house. Bhul-Bhul reached under the gray tarp covering his moored grocery shikhara and pulled out a blue pack of cigarettes. "Only Charms?" he asked. "Only Charms…" I mumbled with an odd blend of guilt and pride.