Ask non-locals, ‘there is no better place than Kashmir for work’
Srinagar, Jan 17: Kashmir, projected as unsafe for the outsiders, has thousands of nonlocal traders and vendors peacefully earning their livelihood all across the valley. One can come across a plenty of Dhabas operated by Punjabis majorly from cities like Delhi, Amritsar, and Chandigarh, while Biharis, known for setting their bases in big cities like Mumbai, can be seen running salons, obviously with loud Bhojpuri music. And, not to be missed are the unique chants by vendors from Uttar Pradesh. From Srinagar to towns like Baramulla and Anantnag, families from various parts of India have been making their living here. “Unsafe? What?” asked Faisal Khan, from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, who runs a sweets shop at Magaramal Bagh here. Faisal’s father, Zulfiqar Khan had come to Srinagar 42 years ago and had set up his sweets shop. Known for its halwa parathas, the shop has a clientele large enough to demand almost round-the-clock business. “Are we unsafe here, Haider?” Faisal asked his younger brother, sitting next to him, when questioned about the situation in Kashmir. Fifteen-year-old Haider answered: “Do I look like someone who would get scared?” Passing the plate of halwa paratha, Faisal said, “Abba passed away, but these halwa parathas have kept his memories alive.” “If Kashmir is unsafe for business, why do you think my father would have had come here? I was born and raised here. Yes, this is a conflict zone, but saying it is unsafe isn’t the right thing.” As per Faisal, however, shutdowns affect the business, but as his shop is “well-known among the locals, the loss gets recovered”. Originally from Uttar Pradesh, Mohammad Jamshed, who comes from Bijnour, has a handloom store at Maharaj Bazar here. Jamshed’s father, Mohammad Kashif, too, had come to Srinagar in 1975 and “struggled hard” to set up their business. After settling down, as per Jamshed, his father had asked his brothers to join him. They now live jointly at Shalimar, and are financially well settled. “It’s peaceful working here. No riots or curfews have affected us. Not once did we think of moving to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, or Bangalore. We’re happy here,” Jamshed said. ‘Punjabi Haveli’, a Dhaba and Lodge at Dal Gate is owned by a businessman from Uttar Pradesh, and managed by two Punjabi brothers from Amristar — Balwinder and Sukhwinder Pal. Balwinder, along with his brother, had moved to Srinagar in 2005 and has been since then working here at the Dhaba. As per the owner, he runs another Dhaba named ‘Punjabi Tadka’, which as well has lodging facility. “What’s better than running a Dhaba right opposite to this beautiful lake? Though we are in a loss because of winters, but after March, I believe the business will be back on track,” said Balwinder. The ‘John International Salon’ at Dal Gate is another instance of brothers operating a business. Owned by a Kashmiri, the salon has hairstylists from Bihar. “We earn Rs 12,000 a month, excluding food and shelter which we get free from our owner. What else do we ask for?” said Mohammad Younus, one of the brothers. “When the situation here wasn’t well last year, I had gone to Mumbai thinking of permanently settling down there. But, I was back in just three months,” Younus, who has been working here for the past four years, said. “If you ask me brother, there’s no better place than Kashmir,” he added.