Did ghosts follow floods to haunt Srinagar’s business hubs?

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Srinagar: Even after three weeks of an unprecedented flood in the Kashmir Valley, summer capital Srinagar’s once busiest markets and streets were deserted Saturday.

In the fashionable Residency Road and Lal Chowk markets, commuters, shoppers and shopkeepers used to curse the unending traffic jams in the city. Today, they are literally mourning the absence of that hustle and bustle of life.

Manzoor-ul-Haq is the owner of the ‘Password’ bookshop on Residency Road. He also owns a publishing house called ‘Wattan Publishers’.

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He says Residency Road and city centre Lal Chowk might not regain their old glory even after a decade.

“Everything is finished. Where is the unending traffic jam that we used to see before September 7 (when floods hit Srinagar)? Where are the unending queues of shoppers?

“All we see today is heaps of garbage, deserted, dusty roads, closed shops, mourning shopkeepers and a pall of gloom over and around Residency Road”, Haq said.

He said all his life’s earnings have been wiped out by the floods.

“I had my shop in the Residency Road and home behind S.P. College less than half a Kilometre away from the shop. Both my workplace and home have been destroyed.

“Our stores have also been submerged where we stored paper and other stuff for publishing”, he said though admitting that books in the first floor of his two-storeyed bookshop have been saved.

Asked how much time it would take for the place to return to normal, Haq shrugged his shoulders. “Well, businesses might return within a month or a fortnight, but Residency Road and Lal Chowk wouldn’t be the same even after a decade.”

Many shopkeepers and businessmen in Lal Chowk said they have lost all their life’s earnings in the deluge.

“It is an accepted principle of trade, greater the profits and sales, greater the stocks. We had put everything we had into stocks that have now been completely finished”, said Zahoor Ahmad, who owns an electronic goods shop in Lal Chowk.

What disturbs the shopkeepers in markets like Residency Road, Maisuma and Lal Chowk is that 50 percent of them had reportedly not insured their shops and stocks.

“Yes, you would be surprised to learn, 50 percent of us hadn’t insured our stocks and, therefore, we have nowhere to look for support,” said another shopkeeper in the Maisuma market adjacent to Lal Chowk.

Schools, colleges and business establishments in uptown Srinagar are still closed as classrooms, laboratories and the like are covered with mud left behind by the flood waters.

Every second local you see passing on the road in Srinagar city is wearing a mask to avoid the stink and dust that followed the withdrawal of the flood waters in inundated areas.

There is no electricity in Residency Road and Lal Chowk areas, although the drinking water facility has been restored.

While officials say 82 people were only killed by the recent floods in the Vallley, 45 of them in Srinagar city, haunted markets, closed schools and colleges and shocked residents stand witness to the fact that Srinagar’s glory and soul have been bruised and battered.