‘Sinking Ship’ Situation Installing Quick-Heal in Kashmir Houseboats

A carpenter working to improve the base of houseboat. KO Photo by Saima Shakeel.

Last year, many houseboats sank in the frosty waters of Dal Lake and river Jhelum due to decayed boat bases.

By Saima Shakeel

ANTICIPATING yet another harsh winter that signaled its early-arrival with the untimely snowfall this autumn, the houseboat community of Kashmir has gone for the advance-coring process.

Last year, many houseboats sank in the frosty waters of Dal Lake and river Jhelum due to decayed boat bases.

“Winter now makes me restless,” said Farooq Ahmad, a houseboat owner.

“We helplessly saw our houseboats sinking last year due to the want of repairing. That sinking ship situation is now keeping all of us on our toes for rebuilding our boat-bases.”

The current crisis-management cycle has started after a bumper tourist season in the valley. Houseboats being sightseeing showpieces always appeal and attract the tourist footfall.

But to keep up with its heritage and beautification, these floating houses need to go under numerous maintenance processes.

KO Photo by Saima Shakeel.

As autumn is now gradually paving way to winter in Kashmir, houseboat proprietors are counting on the coring process to stay afloat in the chilly and challenging season.

Coring aka Sangkar is completed by exceptional craftsmen called Kouthur. Special grass made of dried reed is imported from Assam and utilized in this process.

Brushed into a rope-like design, the grass is placed in the base and side-gaps of the houseboat with some uncommon tools to stop the spillage. The damaged base parts are replaced by expensive wood called deodar.

“This healing cycle requires more than 10 days,” said Mushtaq Mir, a houseboat owner. “This interaction is done after each two to three years.”

KO Photo by Saima Shakeel.

The houseboats normally have a life-expectancy of around 50 to 100 years. But due to the harsh winters in the valley, proprietors are now resorting to the prompt defense cover.

“Coring should end before December when a heavy snowfall is usually expected in Kashmir,” said Mehraj Ahmad, another houseboat owner.

“We begin this compulsory interaction to save our houseboats from drowning in awful climate conditions.”

KO Photo by Saima Shakeel.

But with changing times and traditions, many of these houseboat owners struggle to find a coring master. However, someone like Sajjad Ahmad is still serving the bases of the valley’s floating houses with his craft legacy.

“I used to go with my father for houseboat repairing during my childhood and picked up the skills,” Sajjad said. “Right now, I’m one of the few masters in this craft left in the valley.”

KO Photo by Saima Shakeel.

Whenever some houseboat proprietor faces any trouble in halting the spillage, they call these handful craftsmen for emergency measure.

“We always make an honest effort to arrive at the spot and help the houseboat owners in their distress,” Sajjad said. “But the rescue calling is only increasing from the last two years due to extreme winter in Kashmir.”

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