Frozen Dal reminds of Bakshi's antics

Aman Farooq/GK

With parts of the Dal lake frozen again, it has brought into memory the time when a former prime minister of Kashmir drove his jeep on frozen waters of the lake.

It was 1959 (some say 1964) when Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad drove his jeep over the lake after it froze about 22 inches think. “I have myself seen Bakshi driving his jeep on the frozen lake in 1959,” recalls Muhammad Azim Tuman, chairman of the House Boat Owners Association (HBOA).
Bakshi, Tuman added, drove the vehicle for more than 20 minutes near the Hazratbal coast of the Dal, which is one of the major tourist attractions in Kashmir. “He enjoyed the drive,” Tuman said, recalling the chilling weather.

January 1959 was the first time when the Dal water froze to such an extent that its dwellers couldn’t run their shikaras over the lake. “The boat owners had to break layers of snow in the lake to make their way, while children were seen sliding and walking over the frozen lake, enjoying themselves,” Tuman said, adding the frozen status of the lake continued for nearly a month.

“I, that time, developed appendicitis. Since shikaras couldn’t run due to frozen water, my neighbours carried me on a charpoy to the lake’s bank,” Tuman said.

The freezing of the Dal didn’t end here. The lake froze again in the winter of 1963-64, and then again in 1986. Both the times, the lake water froze about 6 inches, and boys played cricket and hockey on the frozen lake.

“I have played hockey on the lake in 1986,” recalls Manzoor Ahmad Wangnoo, chairman of the Nigeen Lake Conservation Organisation (NLCO). “I walked over the lake for nearly three kilometres from Nigeen to Sadrabal. The crest was very thick and people would walk over it without any fear.”

The then frozen lake, according to Wangnoo, attracted a large number of people, who enjoyed riding bicycles over it.  “That time, the Dal wore a festive look; people from every nook and corner of the Valley thronged the lake and cherished walking over the frozen crest,” Wangnoo said.

The frozen Dal was not, however, incident-free. Tuman recalled an incident of 1953 when a couple of cyclists drowned in the lake. “The cyclists walked over the crest near some natural springs. The water near these springs had not frozen much. The cyclists drowned along with their cycles,” he said.

Today, after more than 12 years, parts of the Dal have frozen again, drawing huge public attraction. Children are seen throwing stones, papers, and breaking the thin ice sheets on peripheries of the lake. “We are enjoying a lot. The lake has completely frozen and we are feeling wonderful. We walked on the lake yesterday and really enjoyed the experience,” a group of tourists told Greater Kashmir. “But we fear walking over the lake.”

Six to seven inches thick layer of ice could be seen along the banks of the Dal while the interior parts have also frozen following a sharp dip in temperature.

Meanwhile, police have urged people not to walk over the frozen layers of the Dal. “People should not demonstrate bravery by walking over the frozen parts of the lake. It could be fatal,” a top police official, wishing anonymity, told Greater Kashmir.