The fear psychosis that would force people to go indoors before dusk in the last two decades seems to be vanishing from public psyche as many dare to move around in dark. Tasavur Mushtaq talks about the new era night life in Srinagar.
It is past 9 PM and the main commercial hub in Srinagar city is still buzzing with life. Shops are filled with shoppers. Even the beggars, local and non-local, have not gone ‘home’ yet, hoping for little more pennies in their bowls.
The famous ice-cream parlours at Regal Chowk are full with both locals and tourists. People have parked their vehicles on the roadside giving the area a busy look at such odd hours.
On the other side of the road, Partap Park is full of revellers who have came along with their families and camped under the mighty Chinars.
“Madam this handmade shawls is 100 per cent Kashmiri,” a middle aged road side vendor was trying to convince a tourist. Soon he was joined by more vendors who saw tourists as potential customers.
At nine in the night the view is uncharacteristic of Kashmir.
After the start of armed militancy in 1989, the once famous nightlife of Srinagar vanished as people were scared to come out of their housed after dark.
Just a few months back, when parliament convict Afzal Guru was hanged secretly inside New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, Kashmir came to a standstill.
However, amid the air of uncertainty that threatens to take away the calmness, probably misread as peace, the people are out to enjoy the lull.
“After coming from office I usually spend few hours in Lalchowk and go home via Boulevard and Fore Shore Road. It really is soothing,” said Tajammul Ahmad.
The evening scene at the famous Clock Tower, locally known as Ganta Ghar, is worth watching.
From teenagers to oldies people are seen enjoying street food near Clock Tower.
Depending upon the taste and likings the people are waiting in a queue to have marinated fish, chicken, barbeque and chowmein (fried noodles). Cold Palae is emerging as the new hot selling food item among the people as it is refreshing and nutritious.
“I am Pathan and have inherited this art (of making Cold Palae) from my father who was from Pakistan,” said Nazir Ahmad alias Nazir Palae.
Few kilometres away from Lalchowk the road that runs along the Dal Lake, is buzzing with life.
From Dalgate to Harwan the entire stretch, which is known as Boulevard, remains busy till midnight.
At Boulevard one can see small stalls, located at regular intervals along the Lake, selling Tuj’s (meat balls). Tuj is a local delicacy that draws people from different corners of city to Boulevard. “Having Tuj’s on the banks of Dal Lake is altogether a different experience,” said Tariq a local
As one walks past these small kiosks selling Tuj’s people sit on the banks of Boulevard forgetting the worries of their lives. “Sitting on the bank of Dal Lake and talking t o friend is what makes me feel at the top of world,” said Imran ul Amin.
In recent years Makai Park on Boulevard road has emerged as a favourite hangout place among locals and tourists.
“By coming out in the evening we stop worrying and start living our lives here,” said Dr Haseeb.
In up-town area of Srinagar, from Natipora to Channapora, market remains open till late midnight.
“It is a unique Experience,” Murtaza Shafi, a resident of Natipora told Kashmir Life.
Interestingly, the old city also remains open till late evening these days. Areas like Safakadal, Hawal, Karan Nagar are full of activities.
“Things have changed for sure. Earlier I used to do all the shopping during day time. Now with a new supermarket opened in our locality I can now shop till late hours,” said Muhammad Ayub of Gojwara.
The change is something new for the young generation, who was born in 90’s. For them venturing out of their houses after dark was something unheard of in Kashmir. “We are experiencing something we have heard from our elders only,” said Raahat, a univesity student.
After the start of militancy marriage functions were held during day time only. But now late night functions are back in vogue.
The change has made people nostalgic. “I remember my childhood days when we used to come back home late in the night after watching movies,” said Manzoor Ahmad from Nowhatta.
But nothing is certain in Kashmir. The word on the streets is how long this new change will last. “We have witnessed three consecutive summer uprisings in which scores of youngsters were killed. It is impossible to simply forget and move on,” said a youngster who lost his friend in 2010 summer protests.