'Hit by COVID, Vendors of Kashmir's Floating Market Are Keeping Tradition Alive'
Vegetable vendors in one of Srinagar's oldest vegetable markets hope the government does more to support them.
It was March when I visited Srinagar's famous floating market at the Dal Lake, right before cases began to rise and the second wave was upon us. The sight upon arriving was one I had never seen before – the chirping of birds, fresh air, boats in the water, and the noise of vegetable sellers in the market. It made the market look beautiful and attractive. Warm and loving vendors treated me kindly, a cherry on the cake of a near-perfect morning.
Amid calls of “Taaze taaze sabzi, walev yapear” (Loosely: Buy fresh vegetables here), boats remained lined up with all kinds of local vegetables that grow in the Floating Garden of Dal Lake, which is a natural wetland. The serene view of Dal Lake was a thing to behold, but I could not help but wonder how vendors were sustaining the market amid pandemic.
While the market stays 'afloat' throughout the year, irrespective of the situation, the lockdown brought new challenges for survival.
"We didn’t close the market at that time. We maintained social distancing and followed all the SOPs to smoothly run the market, as it is Kashmir’s largest wholesale market for vegetables and it's our duty to maintain its pride."Local Vendor
For many vegetable sellers, the market is a link to their family's past. Some say the market is over 400 years old!
"A few years back, if someone used to get ill, elders used to suggest them to drink Dal’s water because it was considered to pure. We produce all kinds of vegetables from our floating gardens and Kashmir’s most famous dish made with Lotus Stem (Nadru) is also grown here."Local Vendor
Now however, drainage problems in the adjacent areas diverts pollutants into the lake, thereby polluting the water. This has added to vendors' misery, who are still adapting to COVID restrictions in the state. The situation is somewhat same currently.
"During the second wave, we followed all the norms set by the government. Now, we are preparing for the impending third wave. Vendors decided to start home delivery for those within the vicinity keeping in mind COVID guidelines. However, we need more support from the government to sanitize our boats and roads towards floating market on a regular basis."Manzoor Ahmad, Local
This market opens in the wee hours of the morning, around 5 am, when most of the city is asleep. It stays open for over an hour or two. People living around Dal Lake line up their boats around a spot at the Kankachi Mohalla to sell the vegetables, flowers et al. The market has witnessed this practice for centuries.
They supply these vegetables all over Srinagar and around some districts like Anantnag and Ganderbal.
Is the Government Doing Enough?
Earlier, the only access to this market was through boats or shikaras, but now, after local efforts, small footbridges were constructed. Nisar Ahmed, a local says that unlike locals, the government of Kashmir is not interested in developing the market.
"If you visit the place after 10 am, it will be a totally different site. The government has not paved any concrete way to visit this market. The locals themselves have built a small wooden bridge from Srinagar's Rainawari side. It is not concrete and can collapse anytime. This affects our children, who have to miss school during winters or the rainy season, as it’s very difficult to walk on the bridge then."
A tourist present at the market, Daksh, told me that this was his first visit here. According to him, he had never seen this kind of market anywhere else in India before.
"We left in a shikara on a chilly morning and were instantly rewarded by a variety of boats loaded with colourful vegetables. It is an interesting insight into the life of a floating community. The beautiful scenery, the calm water and the beautiful sunrise made it a one-of-a-kind experience."Daksh, Tourist
A tourist spot for many and source of livelihood for hundreds, why doesn't this gem in Srinagar get more attention from the government?
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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