Haseena Khan is in her late fifties, and known to her foreign clients as ‘The honey lady of Kashmir’.
Haseena’s ‘Oriental Apiary’ is located on the nullah that joins Dal and Nigeen Lakes and has been among the more famous addresses in Nadiyar.
As a young girl, Haseena used to be entrusted with the safety of wooden boxes by her father. Her father taught her how to keep honey boxes safe from wasps. This is also when her interest in the art of beekeeping began. The informal training she got from her father would in future turn her into one of the biggest honey professionals in the valley and even in the state.
Her father had learned bee-keeping from an Englishman, a teacher at Tyndale Biscoe School and that is all he ever knew.
Her grandfather had suffered massive losses in his crafts business and to compensate for the losses he sold his ancestral property at Sheikh Bagh, for a paltry sum to late PM of Kashmir Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s brother Majeed Bakshi and moved to Nadiyar.
If you are from Kashmir, you are probably aware of the Pamposh Hotel. The famous hotel is built on the same property.
Shifting to Nadiyar was a blessing in disguise and turned out to be the ideal place for beekeeping. Probably, what worked best was the easy accessibility to customers who would pass the area on a Shikara. Her father was quite famous among the foreign tourists for his honey.
The dream run came to an abrupt halt in 1987 when a disease named Warwa spread and destroyed honey bees across the valley. Haseena remembers sadly that her father had to burn all the frames in our apiary since there was no choice. It was heartbreaking she recalls.
This incident didn’t douse Haseena’s father’s spirits though who went on to buy new boxes and bought an Italian breed of honey bees. The breed was more productive and had a higher yield than the previous one recalls an enthused Haseena.
Business grew day and night after the Italian bees got down to their business of making honey but her father took ill and got Haseena to promise that she would continue running Oriental Apiary and that is what she is doing today.
Haseena has a dedicated client-age in far off places like Norway and Australia and is the second person from Kashmir to find a mention in Lonely Planet Guide Book.