‘Peace & quiet’, cheap rates draw some for­eign tourists to Kash­mir

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - Ro­[email protected]

Sri­na­gar/Son­marg: You wouldn't ex­pect to find for­eign tourists in Kash­mir right now. But if you stroll down to the house­boats moored in the scenic Dal Lake, you’d be in for a sur­prise.

Steven Bal­lan­tine, 51, is perched on the steps of a house­boat, strum­ming his gui­tar. On re­quest, he bursts into song. “You might go to church, you sit down in a pew, those hu­mans who ain’t hu­man, could be sit­ting right next to you.” John Prine’s lyrics seem even more haunt­ing against the back­drop of the moun­tains, with the first chill of im­pend­ing win­ter slip­ping into the clear, crisp air.

Bal­lan­tine, a sci­ence teacher from Scot­land, is one of 928 for­eign tourists who ar­rived at Sri­na­gar In­ter­na­tional Air­port from Au­gust 5 to Septem­ber 30, ac­cord­ing to records of the For­eign­ers Reg­is­tra­tion Of­fice. That doesn’t in­clude jour­nal­ists on duty.

Me­dia re­ports abroad tell a dif­fer­ent story... but the lo­cals and sol­diers here are both warm to us —STEVEN BAL­LAN­TINE, It’s the best time to be here as there’s not much rush and a sig­nif­i­cant drop in vi­o­lence due to the re­stric­tions —BAR­BARA STRAUSS,

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