Updated: Mar 20
Kashmir in April 1989 was peaceful and a perfect place for a quiet honeymoon. Our houseboat on Dal lake was magical. Kashmir is sometimes described as paradise on Earth. Stretching eight by four kilometres, it is flanked by the snow-tipped Pir Panjal range of mountains which rise to 5,425 metres. The banks of the lake are punctuated by sparkling white minarets, willows and Mughal-planted plane trees.
On our first morning, I got up first and watched as small boats criss-crossed the lake. One boatman saw me and paddled up to our houseboat. He was selling bright orange poppies that looked so beautiful that I bought them all and then showered them over my new wife, who was still in bed.
After breakfast, we took a shikara to the shore. As there was a chill breeze, the boatman put a blanket over us and placed a charcoal brazier between our feet. He paddled us the shore in toasty comfort. We climbed out of shikara onto the jetty and then set out on foot towards Srinagar.
In the distance, we could see a crowd of people running towards us. I jokingly suggested that this was our welcoming committee. Behind them, a column of smoke shot into the air, followed the the unmistakable sound of an explosion. They had been running away from a bomb.
Wendy turned to go back to the houseboat. Instead, we wandered over to see what had been blown up.
Arriving at the site of the explosion, we saw that a public toilet in front of a police station had been the target. The reinforced concrete structure had been lifted off its foundations and was tilted over at an angle. A man was already standing on the still steaming ruble and having a pee.
Our houseboat manager later told us that the he had read that the bomb had been placed by the Kashmir and Jammu Liberation Front.
This was one of the first of the bombs of a conflict that was to last decades. For the rest of our time in Kashmir, we avoided further incidents, but in otherwise quiet evenings on the houseboat learned that the difference between fireworks and bombs was that you could not only hear, but also feel an explosion,