Aaarrrrrghh! Its 4:30 am and the alarm is not giving up. If only I had not booked a Shikara for 5:00 am! But get up I had to – after all I am a travel writer out to cover the daily vegetable market in the Dal Lake. But once in the boat, was I glad for it.
I got a surreal feeling as I approached the market – half an hour ride away: there was a chill in the air, the first light was still trying to get through the shroud of darkness and even my own Shikara was not making any sounds. And then they started appearing from behind the houseboats: buyers and sellers in their Shikaras, all looking like silhouettes. And at the crack of dawn, as if on cue, the area was full of Shikaras and chatter. Trading had started, like on a stock market floor.
Sellers were farmers or traders. And buyers included houseboat owners, shopkeepers in town, other traders and consumers. Mostly men, a handful of women. Trading in vegetables, fruits, flowers and seeds. How old is the market? No one knows – seems to have been around forever. Volumes pick up as days get warmer and farm produce increases.
I ended up with a Shikara full of veggies and flowers – purchases made out of courtesy from those who agreed to be interviewed. Buy some veggies yourself – the taste will linger in your mouth long after you have left Kashmir.
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