Happiness On My List
The bustling market of Achabal gave me reason to cheer
One evening while travelling back to home from Srinagar, I found the market of Awantipora and the main market of Anantnag shut. The shutters of all shops were down and traffic movement was minimal. I had thought that I would buy fruits and some other stuff from Anantnag, but that was not to be. The entire Anantnag market from Khanabal Chowk to Jangalat Mandi Hospital was wearing a deserted look.
I remember those Eid days when people would gather in evenings and share their happiness. The local vendors, especially the barbeque vendors had a busy time. Youth and children would throng their stalls to enjoy the delicious street food. But in the years that followed, it became scary to travel alone on a road. For many decades, we lost the charm and celebratory occasions for which Kashmir was famous.
Driving on the national highway, I reached Achabal at about 9.15 pm. The festive decorations and illuminations made me cheerful again. In the busy and bustling market, the memories of yesteryears which were thronging my mind faded.
I was glad to see the huge rush of people in Achabal. The shops were decorated beautifully. Many people had come to visit the Mughal Garden. Many others were busy buying street foods and sweets. The Mughal Garden of Achabal is a beautiful picnic spot. Also those who go to Daksum and Kokernag for picnics often stop at the Achabal Mughal garden in the evening.
Vendors Engaged In Brisk Business
Small vendors with hot oil poured in large vessels were busy in preparing halwa and other items. A part of the market has a vibrant presence of vendors with cycle carts, with colourful sun roofs of plastic. I went to this small market. Almost three dozen vendors were busy selling a variety of food stuff.
I went to the stall of an elderly gentleman and said to him, “Chachu pack halwa for me along with fried peas.” Chachu happily obliged and packed a generous portion for me. This section of the market, packed with vendors and bangle sellers was so beautiful that I wanted to stay on here, looking that the hustle and bustle around me.
As I left the market, I saw the beautiful Mughal Garden blooming with the joys of people visiting it, the serene waters and the bright lights. The sight was so enchanting, as if it was calling out to everyone to share the joy. Immersed in its beauty, I forgot the deserted market of Anantnag which had made me feel sad.
Following the recent spate of killings by hybrid militants, roaming outside during late evenings is prohibited by the state forces in the entire South Kashmir. There is higher number of security nakas and check posts at the entry and exit points of all the towns and big villages and at the vulnerable sites. People return to their homes soon after sunset. The fear among the people can remind us of the early 90s. But in those areas where there is no security threat, people enjoy the beautiful evenings, shops are open till 11 pm and one can find families out after dinner to enjoy kulfi, ice-cream and the like.
Achabal, Akkad Park Are Popular Hubs
The beautiful Achabal market is among such delightful spaces where one can stay out till late and watch the happy ebb and flow of life till late in the evening. Similar is the scene at Akkad Park on Pahalgam Road. This place too has a captivating charm and one can roam there till late in the evening. Locals throng Akkad Park in the evening, and also those returning from Pahalgam stop by to enjoy delicious snacks. This ensures good profits for the large number of vendors here.
The media only highlights the incidents of doom and despair in Kashmir. These busy and happening markets so enjoyed by the locals are never part of the discourse. At many tourist destinations and also in many cities, towns and villages, people enjoy moving about till late in the evening or also at night. The movement of people helps the shopkeepers and vendors. Vibrant economic activity is essential for a society to thrive. We do have spots where terror threat is high, but there are also many spots where Kashmiris freely move about and enjoy leisure in these safe zones.