I woke up hearing someone saying it was 5 am and the sun had risen, they were chatting nonstop about their morning trip towards their new destination, and guess what they were Malayalis and I was the only one in the dorm who was able to understand their rantings. I opened my curtain shade and looked outside and decided to go for a morning walk.

I pulled myself up by 6:30 am and started to explore nearby places. I could see many people jogging and doing exercise by the steps of Dal lake. There were many mountaineering cycles parked along the dal lake. One of the shops was open and some were having tea from there. I ordered a coffee and talked with the cyclists. When they heard I was from Kerala they loved me. After spending some time with them I said goodbye and walked to my stay. I needed to check out early as Hannah, Anjana and Vipin will be reaching by 9 (I haven’t met any of them in person till then). They had booked a stay in Lal chowk for the day which was an hour’s ride away from where I was staying.

On the way back I decided to take a shortcut as I saw many sheep in front of me. When I caught up with them I saw a boy in one of the trees and he was chopping off the branches so that the sheep would have their food. There were four shepherds. I had a little chat with the head of the shepherd and he told me he was from Jammu during the Summer they visit Kashmir for the food and in winter they go back to Jammu. They will walk all day trying to find food for the shepherds and stay wherever they feel like. Basically, they were like nomads, I couldn’t talk more to him as he was talking in a mixed Kashmiri and Hindi.

While walking back I figured out what was the issue of the system dependency and reaching my stay the first thing I did was to confirm my assumption and it was true. Now I know what was causing the issue. I got a call from Hannah saying that they had landed and were on their way to our stay. I said I would join them in an hour and went for a quick shower.

I was walking with my luggage towards the roads assuming I will get a cab from the road towards the Lal Chowk. Then I saw a person in his early 60’s smiling at me, I smiled back and asked him where to get a bus/cab to the Lal Chowk. He told me to wait there itself, he was also going towards Lal chowk. We started to talk while waiting for the bus. He had worked in Kerala for a decade. He was selling Kashmiri shawls and other artifacts in Kerala. We were talking nonstop and I thought to myself “How much I have improved since my first solo trip”. He gave me his contact number and asked me to call him If I needed anything in Srinagar. (The bus was only charging Rs. 15 towards Lal chowk and yesterday I paid Rs. 500 for the auto. Poor ME !!!)

I got down at Lal chowk and called Hannah. She told me the location of the hotel and I started towards the hotel. On the way, there were lots of street shops opening up. I could see the excitement in the eyes of the shop owners as I was a prospective customer. I told most of them that I will visit them back later and continued walking.

The room was on the fourth floor of the building and there was no lift. By the time I had reached the room, I was tired. Knocked on the door and heard Hannah’s voice saying that it was open. I opened the door and entered the room. Hannah was sitting on the bed and the others were standing on the small balcony of our room. We started to introduce ourselves. I was familiar with Vipin’s works as I was following him on Instagram. Anjana and I were from the same college but were meeting in Kashmir for the first time. How crazy is that? We were in college for almost the same years and have never seen each other in college. For Hannah, I felt like I knew her for a very long time although we were meeting for the first time. Hannah was a common friend for all of us and we were all connected through her.

Our room was not the same as what was shown on the website, it was totally different. We ordered additional beds and sheets like the ones which were there were dirty. They assured us that they will provide all the things by evening. Anjana was having issues with the mobile network and I told her to wait for some time and check again. I could see everyone was tired from the long journey and they decided to take a nap before going out to explore Srinagar. I told them I will be in a restaurant downstairs as I needed to have a call with my team and tell them about my findings. 

I ordered a bread toast and Kashmiri Kehwa and started my work and called Sravan to inform him about my findings. Sravan said he had found an alternative approach and he did a POC on that. We decided to go ahead with the new approach because when we fixed the system dependency, We found another system dependency that needed to be fixed. We were not sure how many dependencies we needed to install before it worked like a charm. We decided to complete the work by evening and connect back by night. In between Anjana and Vipin came and informed me that they were going out to explore the nearby places. I was happy that we found a new approach and I could enjoy my vacation now.

I went to the room to keep my laptop and that sound made Hannah wake up. She suddenly started to feel a leg cramp and let out a huge cry. I was familiar with the situation and made her stand and press her leg to the floor which will reduce the cramp. The pain got reduced in a while and we decided to go out to explore the places nearby. We called Anjana and asked about their whereabouts. We started our journey towards them and found them sketching in front of a cafe and there were lots of people admiring their works.

I and Hannah decide to go inside the cafe and see what they have. Vipin needed additional hours to complete the sketch and we decided to spend some time in the cafe itself till he completes it. We were hungry and ordered a chicken sandwich and white sauce pasta, the cafe had a perfect ambiance. We talked a lot and got to know each other during this time. Anjana and I were talking about our college and the common friends we had. After some time Vipin indicated that it is going to rain soon and we should head back. We were planning to go on a Shikara ride in the evening and it seemed like we had to drop that plan.

On the way back Anjana showed us the wild blackberries and we started to hunt them down like small children. It rained a little when we reached the hotel and we all were disappointed that we will need to stay at the hotel the rest of the day. After some time we decided to go to Dal lake and see it anyway. 

When we reached Dal lake there were Shikara rides and they were ready to take us for a ride. It will cost us Rs.2000 for four people and we got into the Shikara. As it was a rainy day with strong winds and currents they needed two people to row and we started our beautiful Shikara ride. It was an amazing experience with a slight drizzle and chilled winds. We did some shopping in the Meena bazaar and on our way back we ordered tikka from the Shikara itself. We ordered Mutton, Chicken, Mushrooms, and fish tikkas each. We all loved the fish tikka as it was the best.

We decided to walk around the dal lake and saw a local shop which was selling shawls and jackets, Vipin bought a jacket and I bought a shawl which was only Rs.100. We started to look for a place where we could have tea and found a place. There was a momos place also, we ordered fried and normal momos. There was a provisional store nearby that was issuing local sim cards for the tourist and we decided to buy local sim cards for our use as we didn’t have a proper network with our Vi sims. After a long wait, Anjana and I bought new sim cards and we left for our hotel. 

Our mind was full with Shikara ride memories and our tummy was full with all the good food we had.

When we reached the hotel I and Hannah asked for the settlement as we were going to check out early in the morning. Hannah told the manager that the room is not the same as shown on the website, they didn’t have anything to say and blamed the Oyo team for doing that. The next day we headed to our first destination, Pahalgam.