This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.
Srinagar – City of Lakes and Gardens – the summer retreat of the Moghuls is a beautiful city to explore. Excited to take the shikara in Dal lake, Madhu persuades Niket for the short tour to watch sunset. Niket likes the idea and they leave their backpacks in their room and rush before its too late. Having a bath can wait for another two hours! After all, they’ve managed without it for seven long days!
They hop across the lane which is buzzing with traffic – How stupid are we that we run for money when actual wealth is all around us, Madhu wonders. A Kashmiri guy having a warm smile on his face catches his attention and they make a deal with him for a shikara ride in the lake.
The small shikara takes them away from the buzzing streets, all Madhu can now hear is the roving of oars that make their way through calm water which reflect the golden shine of the setting sun. A weird stench hits him hard as the shikara proceeds ahead; they see rows of houseboats anchored in the middle of the lake, dirt all around them – messing with the eco-systems. It’s a tough call to clean up a lake 18 square kilometres huge!
There are various sellers who are returning back to the shores as the sun is about to set. Niket stops a shikara selling chunk jewellery and buys some pieces for Siddhi. He imagines the look on her face when she’ll see these cheap yet beautiful pieces.
The shikara halts at a far end away from the city roads. Yet, it is not that deep into the lake. Niket and Madhu observe the sun transition from a blinding yellow to a glowing orange to a burning red and with time, disappear down the horizon leaving the sky red with sadness.
As time progresses, the sky lifts the veil of mourning and breaks into a plethora of shades as it welcomes the band of moon and stars to adorn it’s body. The entire transition of forty minutes is a sight to behold. Madhu cannot help but speak softly, afraid to ruin the calmness in the moment – ‘Fantastico!’
They reach their room again to notice Swami has left to explore local streets for buying some souvenirs for home and some sweets for his office colleagues. Abhinav and Arpit are checking their mails and whatsapp messages in the room right next to theirs.
Niket undresses himself and opens the taps to fill the tub with hot water. He can observe a sharp difference in the skin tones on his body – the tanned part has gone dark and looks bad due to dryness and skin tearing.
He puts his legs into the hot tub and lets the lathered water soothe his aching body. It is heaven! As he gets into the tub completely, he oozes contentment and relief from all pain – All he wants to do is lie inside the tub forever and indulge his senses in the blueberry scent of bubbles – his favourite since childhood. The bubble maker also has a picture of Doremon on it!!!
He scrubs and washes himself to rise out of the tub fresh and energised.
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