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Himalaya

Day 41: Srinagar

Srinagar, India 
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The sombre side of Srinagar. Torrential rain lashes the lake.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThe storm rumbles on through the night and as the growls of retreating thunder merge with the cries of the muezzin I reach for my torch (there has been no mains power since the rain began). It's five o'clock, but I feel wide awake. I dreamt very vividly last night. Super-charged dreams, as if the electricity in the air had given them an extra intensity. I saw my father very clearly and I rushed up and hugged him, something I never did when he was alive, and heard myself say 'Hello Dad!' except it wasn't my voice at all but the voice of my son.

An hour later dawn is breaking and we're driving out onto the wet and windswept streets of Srinagar. The night-time curfew has only just ended and the streets are empty save for foot patrols and packs of stray dogs. Srinagar must have been a handsome city once. There are still many tall, steeply gabled, half-timber, half-brick buildings, a few onion domes and a magnificent mosque with roofs, turrets and spires with echoes of Russia and lands to the north.

The Indian government has 600,000 army and security forces in Kashmir and their ubiquitous presence has coarsened the city and compromised whatever beauty it might have had. Apart from bunkers and armoured patrol cars, there are barbwired and sandbagged surveillance posts, sports pitches that have been turned into army camps, and I'm told there's not a single cinema operating in Kashmir's capital now. All have been requisitioned for military accommodation.
Srinagar, India 
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The Kashmir Martyrs' cemetery, one of many for those Muslims who’ve died fighting, or because of fighting, for freedom from India.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 41: Srinagar
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Srinagar
  • Book page no: 92

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