At the crack of dawn, around 50 boats gather at a point in the interior of Srinagar’s Dal Lake. Within two hours, they will be gone — when the sky’s faint blue will give way to clear sunlight.
The boats are loaded with vegetables, waiting to be traded.
In the ongoing turmoil in the Valley, the Dal Lake’s floating vegetable market — which is a popular tourist destination and has been functional for over 100 years now — has become one of the most important sources of vegetables, since curfew has not been imposed on the lake and the market functions every morning uninhibitedly.
Kashmir has been under curfew for the last 48 days, since Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on July 8.
Although in many areas of Srinagar, people are buying the produce of kitchen gardens and small farms, most vegetable, fruit and grocery shops have remained shut in Srinagar, except for the time slot during which the separatist leadership announced a ‘relaxation’ in the shutdown.
“This market has not shut because of the curfew. Vegetable vendors from across the city come here, buy stuff and then they go and sell it. We mostly sell what we cultivate,” says Abdul Rehman, a vegetable vendor.
Vendor Aashiq Hussain, who sells nadroo, explains the dynamics of the floating market.
“The sellers here are all Dal dwellers. They also trade among themselves, apart from selling the items to shop owners coming from outside Dal. We do not use fertilisers in our vegetables, and that’s why it’s fresh and tasty.”
The vegetable market is an important source of income for Dal dwellers for whom tourism and farming are major livelihoods.
The profit for the vendors varies according to the season and the rates of vegetables, vendor Nazir Butt says and adds that during a favourable season, transaction amounting to a few lakhs are conducted in the morning market.