It's the tourist cliche to run from, a week on a houseboat on Dal Lake. Also, it's way beyond our budget. Also, shouldn't we wait till things calm down in Kashmir? Wrong on all counts.
There is one kind of peace that never leaves this valley, and it is here, it is here, it is here. In a green crescent bordered by a stone wall that Emperor Akbar built is a garden shaded by massive, aged chinars. Dahlias wearing improbable colours nod at velvet coxcombs, while young willows, unweeping, stand on the banks. Slipping into the lake itself is the uncultivated garden, where the vegetation starts from pond scum, algae and duckweed and culminates in the lotus. Between the gardens are anchored houseboats, far from their closely packed fellows in the city centre.
At Butt's Clermont Houseboats, you can banish thoughts of rocking, oily water, and damp smells. Mr Butt runs floating stately homes, smelling of cedar and pine and complete with butlers. The boats are fitted with carved panels and windows, venerable desks, and a profusion of crewelty on the drapes.
It is late...