M Y Siddiqui
Swift action, spontaneous response and quick help thy name is the people of the Kashmir Valley. When it comes to the crunch, the Kashmiris, who are full of warmth, love, affection, courtesy and hospitality, rise as one people to provide instant relief and rescue measures to the people in need.
It so happened in the afternoon of April 25, 2010 when I, my wife, son and a local friend from Srinagar were riding a Shikara in the world famous Dal Lake, A freaky storm and ‘instant’ rain in about ten minutes of our boarding the Shikara named Bob Marley, turned it upside down and capsized.
While we went down deep inside the cold water, some people from ashore jumped in the waters and dived deep to save us. As a result, we survived miraculously. It was, as if, we were snatched from the jaws of death. It was so dramatic. When we were taken out fully drenched, a large number of people rushed with all sorts of relief aid like warm cloths etc. Meanwhile, someone informed the local rescue police and they rushed in motor boat to the spot in five minutes and took us to the shore.
Yet another most significant redeeming aspect, immediately after our miraculous survival, was when my wife started crying for her bag containing rupees 20 thousand or so, among other valuable things. Responding to this, two young men jumped and dived deep into the water, one of them carrying the wet handbag in between his teeth from deep inside the water with everything intact. This remarkable feat of honesty of the Kashmiris, immediately following our miraculous “rebirth”, made our tour of the Kashmir Valley unforgettable and a lifetime experience. It was so humane and wholesome.
The police rescue team got necessary details from me. Immediately, our car took us to the hotel where we were staying. During the journey to our place of stay, the driver Mohammad Ashraf switched on the car heater spontaneously to keep us warm.
It was like a fable story. Locals in the area near the Dal Lake, Srinagar acted like Good Samaritans. We were overwhelmed by the swift and sudden profuse helpful responses of the unknown people so much so that it left an indelible mark on our psyche and an unforgettable memory. I salute them all for their exemplary help and rescue. It seemed the kindness of Kashmiri people was available in abundance and overflowing for the tourists and visitors; it would never dry.
There was, however, one lesson learnt; had our ill fated boat met with similar accident in the middle of the Dal Lake perhaps it might not have been possible for the local boatmen and divers to reach the spot of accident in the nick of time to save us there. Fortunately, our ill fated boat was near the shore. Hence, our miraculous escape from the death.
This unfortunate incident made us realise that there was a dire need to provide life guard jackets as a precautionary, protective and preventive measure to the tourists boating in the Dal Lake. Alternatively, life guard jackets should be made available, on rent, by private agencies on fixed tariff as warm clothes and snow shoes are available on hire at Gondola for enjoyable sledging and skiing in the world’s most famous tourist ice spots of Gulmarg.
(Siddiqui a member of Indian Information Service, retired as Director Public Relations. He works as a freelance journalist)