We flew from Delhi to Srinagar. Distasteful name, I thought. Great. Yet another small, obscure town.
Our car flew through dusty streets and street signs in Urdu, whose letters flowed and weaved like birds darting and flitting amongst another. Bashir. Farooq. Ahmed. The shop owners had names which delicately dripped off the tongue; a place inhabited by descendants of the Middle East it seemed.
Mosques stood resolutely, their white domed heads reflecting the piercing sunlight. Wisps of black cloth cumulatively wrapped themselves around women, until all that was visible was a pair of glittering eyes, darting about. The men accompanying them had beards which seemed so dry that they were permanently affixed to their face, and sharp, piercing eyes, under which a handsome jawline and aquiline nose rested.
Further on we saw ladies who were resplendent in colour; with creamy skin and earrings that caught the sunlight and flashed, as ravishing as their sparkling smiles. Colourful hijabs adorned with intricate patterns hid most of their hair, and a simple salwar with long, loose pants made them the definition of modesty.
I wondered if I had been transported back to the period of Mughal rule, for the inhabitants of Srinagar resembled the kings and queens of that period. Sharp noses coupled with a playful, inviting smile, and rosy red lips in a perpetual state of mischievous laughter meant I simply could not tear my eyes away.
Our swarthy driver, Abdul, grinned at us once we arrived at the lake.
“Nigeen Lake. The quieter (and more beautiful) lake in Srinagar,” he beamed proudly, his clouded green eyes in strange contrast to the joviality of his tone.