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Humans of Wanderlust #7: Ramzan Lungroo from Dal Lake

Introduction about Ramzan

Ramzan Lungroo was born in the Dal Lake area. Dal is a lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. He has a family of 10 people including his two brothers, their wives and kids. Growing up, he was surrounded by a variety of travellers from different parts of the world.

He owns the Pride of India houseboat in Dal Lake and is the third generation in his family business of welcoming people to their ‘live in a houseboat’ experience.

Dal lake Kashmir

The lake life here is peaceful as you can only hear the sound of water and people going here and there in their shikara rides. Going to their houseboat is like a homecoming. The family is so welcoming and helpful that you don’t feel like living with some strangers because they treat and greet you like a family member.

We all call him Ramzan Bhai, here at tlow. His way of greeting people is very welcoming because he has a pure heart and a warm smile.

The thing Ramzan loves most about living near the lake is just to roam around the whole evening and then enjoy the sunset. He studied in the local school in Srinagar. But most of his learning has come from the travellers he meets and speaks to.

“We have people coming from different parts of the world teaching their language and culture. This made me much more confident in speaking while growing up,” he said.

How and when did you start?

“We started this houseboat business more than 70 years ago. The intention was just to make a good place for people who just want to enjoy a peaceful evening near the lake by sitting outside or roaming in the shikara ride. When we started this houseboat, we had a challenge of natural calamities as rainfall was the biggest challenge to survive near the lake where everything submerges in the water in a night or just in a few hours.

I remember my dad was talking to my mother about how things have drastically changed over the years here on the lake but the peace and purity of the place has never left. Then I remember the words that my mother said, ‘It all has been in God’s watch. He loves this place, he will protect it”. That is the day I realised how strong a person can be with faith in God,” he said.

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Till 1995, they used to only get foreigners who wanted to stay here, chill out a bit and then head to the mountains. Mostly people used to come just after or before a trek in the Kashmir region.

“It was a beautiful summertime when people used to sit out in the sunshine with kahwa in their hand. I saw this place in many seasons. Sometimes it does become like gold. The sunlight over here actually changes the vibes and mood of the day. Even the mountains on the right side of the lake change their colour and appearance day by day,” he said with a sparkle in his eye.

Mostly, they used to get Israeli and British crowd. Now after 2000, the Indian crowd started to visit this place. “So we get both Indian as well as international tourists in our houseboat. The traditional method of getting people to your houseboat here is just to go on the ghat i.e, the gate near the road, talk to them if they need a houseboat or a shikara ride. Both need convincing skills and knowledge about the place. I love to be on the shore waiting for new ‘prospective clients’, what you guys say in today’s world,” he said.

Ramzan and his elder brother Sheffy are twins and look similar. “Initially we used to go with my dad to see how to get a person’s attention and convince them to come to our place. People have stayed and loved the place because of our hospitality, food and comfort in the rooms. Even the lake view was an important element. When I was in the fourth standard, I learnt to paddle from my dad and grandfather. My entire childhood was spent over the lake. Here for every small thing, you have to take the boat out and go,” he said.

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How long have you been associated with TLOW?

dal lake house boat

“In 2017 when Sheffy, my elder brother met Sherwin outside the taxi stand was when we were first associated with tlow. He and his group were young minds with the modern perspective about the world. It was a good feeling talking to them and taking them for an evening shikara ride. Many people ask me about the story of Dal Lake, how it started and what were the consequences. I enjoy talking.

Whenever I observe travellers, I get to know how they are. I feel sunset is the best time to get to know a person, because with that you can have a good view to talk about and of course a good vibe for the conversation. Sunsets are important in our lives because whenever you see a sunset, you get the feeling that it will come again. The next day you are going to be more excited and confident about life.

TLOW has given us a good amount of happiness whenever the travellers come and enjoy. They are the ones who belong to our family as well. We talk and sit with them as friends and they share their stories and we share our experiences. My good wishes are always with the guys who are trying to change the world with meaningful journeys. I seriously loved Sherwin and his team for working so hard,” he said.

How has tourism changed your life?

“Tourism has helped me learn English, Israeli and different other international languages to communicate. I always wanted to know different people who stay far from here and how they live their life. It has shown me the importance of various elements. It has helped me and my business to grow and flourish.

Secondly, the room comfort creates an important part in our lives because people want to experience something royal and they want a fancy feel so we have decorated our houseboat in an appealing way. Third comes the food, which is also a very important element in running this business because nowadays the competition is so cut throat.

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People have installed modern cooking grills over their houseboat in a garden area. Mostly we serve home food and beverages during the day. But people have become foodies nowadays, they go out to taste different cuisines in the restaurants. It feels good that they usually have Kashmiri Wazwan as their meal here in Srinagar. At least the local feel is still there in food. I have seen the problem of adulteration in the markets that makes me worry for future generations, how will they get stronger if they consume adulterated food. It should be stopped. Food is a blessing if we don’t respect it, we won’t get it, that’s what I believe,” he said.


How has the place changed over the years?

Ramzan

“It is said that whenever your intentions are good and pure, you will not get anything bad in your way. I believe strongly in this. Otherwise, we would have been dead in the floods faced by Jammu and Kashmir. Different floods have taught us how to survive in various conditions. Many times there has been major destruction to our houseboat due to continuous heavy rain,” he said.

The place has now been facing water issues due to overheating and less water from the glaciers and mountains. Sometimes even the electricity and mobile connection are affected because of sensitive issues in Srinagar.

“The food and ingredients over here are mostly black marketed which has caused various health problems to us and our kids. I believe that the earth is just showing its reaction to whatever man is doing on it. I hope for a better situation for all human beings,” he said.

Ramzan Bhai is one of the humblest persons you will ever meet in your life. Like a friend, he teaches one how to paddle the boat and even how to live life in a more carefree manner.

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