The Bell boy in houseboat – Ishfaq


It was 12th May 2013 , when a flight from Mumbai Landed in Srinagar . Outside temperature was announced as 12 degrees. It was quite surprising for me. As this time of the year , Srinagar is supposed to be in its 20’s . As i looked out from the window , i could see drops of water on the window shield and i saw it was raining out side. I just got excited as i was going to visit a place which is called “Heaven on Earth- Kashmir ” . Few mins later i got out of the aircraft and approached to the respective belt to collect my baggage. My tour manager had planned everything perfect , the concerned person was waiting outside the airport . We were soon taken to the parking place where vehicles were arranged to escort us to the houseboats which we were going to stay for next 2 days.

As we approached the parking lot , we were mobbed by a group of kashmiri locals , who wanted to help us with our luggage. They spoke with us in kashmiri , i kept looking at them with a blank face , as if i am not at all understanding anything.  Kashmiri’s have a culture of working in unity and understanding. I did not understand a single word they spoke, however i was astonished by their profound unity to work together. I was carrying 4 huge trolley bags , each of them would have easily weighed 20 kg’s minimum.  The locals took all the luggage from us and placed them on top of cars so easily as if they weighed just 5 kgs.

OK so now that i had formally began my drive from Srinagar airport to Nigeen Lake where , houseboats awaited our arrival.  After around 30 mins of drive we arrived at Nigeen lake where a few shikara’s were arranged to transport our luggage to the assigned house boats.

2013-05-14 06.09.01

 As our luggage arrived in shikara , a plush wooden houseboat was waiting for us to get checked in. It was tough time for me to get the luggage from Shikara to houseboat terminal. Well i call that place a houseboat terminal , dont really know what it is called really. While i was taking my luggage out. There came a helping hand behind me. And it was a boy in his 20’s giving me helping hand for my luggage , the way he was working i could easily make out that he was the bell boy of houseboat. A very innocent face in his 20 ‘s , was pushing hard to get the luggage out of the shikara.

I kept looking at him, and i felt a sense of appreciation for him inside me. This was the time i could realize that these locals here are so hardworking.  Ishfaq took us through the houseboat and guided us well.

After i was settled in the houseboat with my family , i ha a quick lunch and i came back to my houseboat by shikara.  It was nice chilling weather in Srinagar as it has been raining all day. The view from my house boat was amazing as you could see in the below image. 2013-05-14 06.08.46

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After lunch i felt like sipping a hot coffee near the lake , so i asked Ishfaq to get me one. After a few mins i had a coffee cup in my hands. I felt like i should ask Ishfaq something. He was standing at a distance away from me. I called him and asked. ” So how do the locals survive here. I mean whats the main source of income for them”

“Tourism Sir.” He said. ” Those who are below poverty line are given only 35 Kgs ( for the whole year) of grains to survive. “

I was moved hearing this. When i look back at myself. How much money we people have and how much we actually require and how much we end up wasting and these people they get only 35 kgs for the whole year.

Anyways , i knew for the fact that there is nothing i could do at that moment apart from hearing his story . But yes i believe we could bring a change withing our own self when we look at people like Ishfaq. The next day i went out as per my plan and in the evening i was supposed to check out to move towards Pahalgam.

While i did my usual formalities , it was Ishfaq standing next to me giving me a smile ” Sir could you do something for our tip “

I absolutely had no clue as to what do i do. Completely in the state of confusion , i pulled out a Rs 50 note from my pocket and handed it over to him as courtesy. I kept thinking if that 100 Rs Note was going to change anything in his life . But this is what is life all about for people like Ishfaq. People like us who with a great difficulty are able to pick up the luggage we carry , for them its a profession which would give them money. Hope someday things would change.

For now this is Shwetal signing off from here…… Back from Kashmir heaven on earth.

Shwetal – An avid writer.


There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

W. Somerset Maugham



4 thoughts on “The Bell boy in houseboat – Ishfaq

  1. Loved the way you shared the story. I believe if we can spend so much money on the trip, we can squeeze out a bit extra for tips too! that will make both happy- us and the man who waits for tourists for some extra cash 🙂

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