SRINAGAR, July 23: The harsh ‘noon sun’ at Srinagar’s city center pushes pedestrians mostly to resort under some shade and shadow but the walk in the city continues its way amid traffic jams, shouting cart pullers and bus conductors and the chasing policemen.
An old duo in their seventies give all this fuss a slip and sneak into a small alley that attracts food lovers with the fragrance of baked spices and delicacies it has to offer.
“Let us fill the empty stomach first and then see what else we have to get hold of”, says one while other following the direction, nods in acceptance.
In a journey of race and adjustment, Food Street, also known as “Battae Galli” (Rice Street), located in the capital of Srinagar city, Lalchowk is a true example of endurance and continuance. Started in 1960’s under the presidency of J&K Tourism Department, Food Street comprises of 15 local shops of food forums where one can get the wonders of delicious food in an affordable price with a bit of homey ambiance.
Food Street is famous for its food and hospitality from decades where price meets the satisfying delicacies.
“Here, you can get a wide variety of food items which includes wazwan (Kashmir’s traditional food preparations mostly served during marriages) and other eating stuff,” said a worker of food street, while talking to Kashmir Despatch.
While the aromatic essence of wazwan attracts people of all ages, the hustle and bustle keeps the street upbeat, especially during the afternoon. People from various regions of Kashmir visit the street. “People who visit our shops are mostly like us, some are indigent while others are small workers”, said another worker.
As compare to other upgraded food forums where price touches the sky, Food Street is a place where people can get the delight of delicious meal including wazan and other vegetarian dishes like cheese, lentils, collard greens (haakh in Kashmiri), mixed vegetables, pickles and much more without paying huge debit.
“We also offer food to slab making projects”, said Yasir Dharma, one of the main member of the street who inherited his father’s business two decades back. “we serve nearly two to five hundred people a day”, he further added.
“It is the taste and decisive price of food which keeps compelling me to come here every day…!” Mohammad Hanief, a regular customer at the food Street, observed while talking to Kashmir Despatch.
“I am a labourer and I cannot afford other restaurants where I can go to fill my empty stomach as I don’t earn much”, said another customer.
Besides, Food Street is also considered as one of the favourite spots for tea lovers where people savour the tea with the comfort of homemade bread.
“I have been selling tea here since my childhood,” said Noor Mohammad Malik, owner of the tea shop on the street.
“Before the development phase, this place was in shambles. The shops were mainly made of tin and tarpaulin”, said a member of the street. “The workers here are mostly from poor backgrounds”, he further added. After the government’s interference, this place was somehow renovated and all the poor workers were brought under the common roof of the food street.
Since then, there has been no development or renovation. The negligence of the government is the major hindrance in the developmental work of Food Street. “Government isn’t allowing us to renovate our establishments. This results in the downfall of tourism here,” a worker told Kashmir Despatch.
“Due to lack of consciousness, this place is declining”, said another worker. As per him, the government is not even troubled to change the street lights which are of no use now.
“In order to keep this place alive and meet the taste of people, we provide food on an order basis. In addition, we are also thinking of promoting this forum through Social Media platforms”, said another member of the street.
As per the members, the government should take steps to maintain the infrastructure of the street with a taste of modern architecture which will help them to sustain their self-possession and prevent the Food Street from falling off.