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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir


Tier

upon tier, the rickety wooden houses crowded either bank, the prevailing brown being oddly lighted up by the roofs, which were frequently covered with deep green turf. Here and there the steep and peculiar dome of a Hindu temple flashed like polished silver in the keen sunlight, while around and beyond all rose the ring of the everlasting hills, their peaks clear, yet soft, against a background of cloudless blue.

Close below us stood a remarkably picturesque pile of buildings, of a mixed style of architecture, yet harmonising well enough as a whole with its surroundings. Over it flew a great "banner with a strange device," and we assumed (and rightly) that we looked upon the palace of His Highness Sir Pratab Singh, Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir.

Crossing the river, we dived into a bit of the native town, and were much struck by the want of colour as compared with an Indian street. Everything seemed steeped in the same neutral brown--houses, boats, people, and dogs! Emerging from the native street, with its open shop-fronts and teeming life, we drove for some little way along a straight level road, flanked, as usual, on either side by poplars of great size which ran through a brown, flat field, showing traces of recent snow, and finally finished our two-hundred-mile drive in front of the one and only hotel in all Kashmir.

Our two little chestnuts, which had brought us right

through from Chakhoti to Srinagar--a distance of about seventy-eight miles--in two days, were as lively and fit as possible, and playfully nibbled at each other's noses as they were walked off to their well-earned rest.

The ekka horses, too, had brought our heavy luggage all the way from Abbotabad over a shocking road in the most admirable manner, and we had every reason to congratulate ourselves on having entrusted the arrangement of the whole business--the "bandobast" in native parlance--to our henchman Sabz Ali, who had thus proved himself an energetic and trustworthy organiser, and saving financier to the extent of some twenty rupees.

I may emphasise here the importance of keeping one's heavy baggage in sight, herding on the ekkas in front, if possible, and keeping a wary eye and a firm hand on the drivers at all halts. The Smithsons, who had sent on their gear from Rawal Pindi some days before we got there, did not receive it in Srinagar until the 22nd of April. It took about five weeks to do the journey, and the rifle which I was obliged to leave in Karachi on the 19th of March finally turned up in Srinagar, after an infuriating and vain expenditure of telegrams, on the 1st of May!

Of course, part of the delay was due, and all was attributed, to the unusually bad state of the roads. The heavy storms and floods which, by wrecking the road, had delayed us so much, naturally checked the heavy transport still more; and severe congestion of bullock-carts resulted at all the halting-places along the route. Still, the main cause of delay lies in the fact that the monopoly of transport has been granted by the Maharajah to one Danjibhoy, who charges what he pleases, and takes such time over his arrangements as suits his Oriental mind.


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