Abdul Khaliq starts his day early by rowing his decorated Shikara (boat) through rough waters of Dal Lake to reach Ghatt (Jetty) No 9, his Shikara’s designated stand in Srinagar’s Boulevard. After parking his Shikara, he waits for his colleagues to show up.
One after another his colleagues Shikaras emerge in the distance lighting Khaliq’s sprits. They spend their day at the Jetty stand recalling pre-August 5, days when they would hardly get time to meet.
“Now we sit together entire day and chat as there is no work,” said Khaliq. “What else can we do?”
Khaliq and others are joined by Razaq Ahmad, an elderly Shikara man who now works as a book-keeper for Shikara owners associated with Jetty No 9. There are 24 Shikaras registered at this Jetty stand. “For the first forty days we stayed at home,” said Razak. “Then we came out to kill time and meet each other.”
Razaq maintains a register where he notes down the names of all Shikara owners against the amount each one of them has earned on a daily basis. Since the last fifty days, the register is blank as there has been no work.
“We have a different system of work here. When a tourist comes to hire a Shikara, he hires it through me,” said Razaq looking hopefully at the blank register.
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