Amid urban myths and legends, Srinagar has stayed snappers’ picture perfect owing its heritage and history.
Jhelum’s Ghat No. 9 is a monochrome of melancholy and a place of plain-speak. Shaded by serene Chinar, it houses sparrows and chirpy souls drifting for some solace in the city under construction.
A notion of spring, fragile green twigs sprouting out of the concrete stairs, sparks the sanguine spirit in some pep-talkers, hoodie-sporting blokes and some wandering souls out on leisure walks.
But some dicey prying eyes and eavesdroppers do create misgivings and emptiness. The hushed tones are mostly about the bonds gone rogue and that sighing-in-furnace moment at the nascent stage of life. Schmaltziness is speculative in this sea of silence.
In the city’s graveyard of memories, some adorned articles have become street auctions. With intimacy gone, the rise of the junkyard at Babademb is a metaphor of the distorted picture, rues a clean-shaved man smoking cigarette.
He delves into ‘past perfect’—when placid lagoon was free of demarcations and pollutants. “It was Budshah’s window,” the old man talks about the benevolent Badshah’s Babademb durbar. “But that royal site is buried under murky waters where a rustic race of survival is now engaging commoners.”
Ahead of this scrap center is a square deriving its name from the iconic grocer gallery. Bohri Kadal’s beauty—Matka Kulfi—defies its image of being a tumult-torn turf. With marque and monikers binned in the dustbin of history, there’re hardly any traces of Nalamar canal and a storm that made it a starry-eyed souk.
At a stone’s throw is a bazaar where tradesmen of plains once ruled the roost. The market reeks of mercantile and memories. The maze arcade and its alleys are engulfed by a strange mist. Every corner is surrounded by the wan-masonry, stately structures superseding its present plight.
The market exit leads to Aali Kadal where people wake up to the thrashing sounds of delicate yet resilient fabric. The visuals of hovering shawls left for sun-drying somehow manages to uplift the horrendous mood. But in this riveting rainbow, the shades of those hanging figures strike some eerie resemblance.
But in this heritage city, Kalai as a sub-prison is now crumbling right under the nose of cultural campaigners busy excavating the knotty past these days. Akbar wanted to turn this confined area into a cantonment, named Nagar Nagar. However, people restored it as a residential hub and reclaimed the space.
In the middle of this wall is Waris Khan’s Chah—a well of death—dug to separate the soul from the body. But now, a beautiful dome is concealing its historic horrors.
A curious child, climbing up the cage, wanted to know the purpose of the well. Her parents convinced her that it was a spring, enclosed to save the water from pollution. But the invisible darkness of the well is deeper than the distracted description.