Poloview — Where Mystics Once Made Day for Merchants
Based on the oral history by Kashmir’s ace chronicler, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, the author in this piece narrates the iconic street of Srinagar’s unique brands and characters that made it illustrious for generation to come.
Fronting Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s MA Road mainstay, the iconic Poloview market literally had a blazing beginning in fiery nineteen fifties.
It became a rehabilitation center of almost 32 shops gutted in a fire incident during Bakshi’s rule on Srinagar’s Bund.
Beyond some well-known and skilled artisans and business people associated with Kashmir Arts, the rehabilitated community had some influential social voices and was specimen of a densely netted Kashmir society.
The marketplace started from a shop adjacent to the Kothi Bagh Police Station, then known as the Special Staff or Kochi Bagh Police Station. The shop belonged to late Salam Din Kant and brandished Kashmiri shawls.
Next in lane were P Allen, Harco Chemists, Nab Jee Furriers and a small lane leading to an automobile workshop of Haji Mohammad Ismael Ahangar, aka Wasti Ismaal.
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In the next lane was meeting point of Bakshi supporters, famous for its tea and Kabab. Grand Hotel was the evening point to share a table for Bakshi musclemen known as ‘Goaggi’.
Next in line were Sarabhai Chemists owned by Vikram Sarabi’s sister, and Victor Brothers, a leather store owned by two brothers Khwaja Ghulam Rasool Lankar and Mehraj Din Lankar. FE Paul Tailors, who were family tailors of Maharaja, was also tucked there.
Khazir Mohammad & Sons was next and it displayed a silver elephant, Chinar leaves and other silver art-works in its showroom. Adjacent to it was Glimmer Arts, a crowded place known for its Kashmir Arts and embroidery collection.
Next was Syed Shah Embroidery, owned by Khwaja Ahmad Shah Banaday, Khawaja Hamza Naqash and Khawaja Assadullah Naqash. The number of visitors was as difficult to count, as was the number of salespeople working there.
On the other side, Ghulam Mohiuddin & Sons would display jewelry, carpets, stones, etc. And on its top floor was the clinic of Dr. Ali Jan whose reception counter was always flocked with patients.
Next in line was a shop that all the market believed had blessing of a godman they called Abllah Seab. The mystic would show up often carrying a bag on his back holding it with his chin. Making rounds of the whole market, he would finally unload his trash bag at Eastern Agency. The shop was a provision store and a liquor shop owned by Baljit Krondou who never minded the malang’s blessings and neither did visitors minded rush on his shop.
The queue went on with Tumli and Co. and La Bela retardant.
The next uncommon stop in the line was workshop of Wasti Rajab, Rajab’s Motor Garage. Back then it was a haven of the vintage vehicles where visitors would be welcomed by manger Ahmadullah with his blonde looks and British accent.
Legend has it that any vehicle passing-by would stop to get a pulse check from Master Rajab. The skinny man with thick glasses was no less than a specialist.
After Tailor of Taste who mostly made suits for foreigners, was Universal Agency that again was a liquor shop. Its manager Kashi Nath Pandit was a humble man who would often walk up to his co-market people and say, “Maalya, phone hassa chu”. There were no other phone counters in the whole market.
Before one would reach to the corner where from PM Bakshi’s castle could be seen, there were shops of Sweller Roy, G M Bawan, Thankers Agency, G M Shah, Sham Brothers Furrier and K Salama.
On this corner, often a gentleman wearing a three-piece suit and a roman skullcap would show up and stare across.
The man would walk across the market and finally stop by a corner and say a few words as if addressing Bakshi’s residence that was always bustling.
The well-dressed gent was known in the market as Zee Saab of Pampore.
On other side of this corner was Khawaja Samad Shah’s shop and next to it was Noor Din Pandit’s Pashmina and Shahtoos Shawl shop. Ali Mohammad Bhat & Brothers and Vogue House followed next.
Outside the next shop would be seated an old man with a typical Kashmiri appearance whom everyone called Kabb Seabi Kathwear.
Wearing pheran and headgear, he would always attract attention of English ladies by his affectionate voice, “Good morning, Madam. Come in, please! Come this side. I will show you that stuff you’ve not seen in the heaven. Walai, zuv wandai. Walai wanni, meaynn derei chai! Come in, please!”
His appearance and words often clicked and the visitors would be convinced to visit Kabirju & Sons Jewellery store.
After Himaliya Furriers, next shop was Cheerful Chippendale which was an antique furniture store. Its owner Ghulam Mohammad Reshi from Safakadal loved to speak and be an analyst of politics.
For the whole market, the stares would never be too busy anytime a mystic would make a walk through.
The Kryaal Bab of Dal Gate would be welcomed with warm heart anytime he showed up with multi- colored cloth stripes tied on his legs.
“They’re the colors of flags of the nations in this world,” someone would end the query of people.
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