A mix of emotions is apparent on the face of Bashir Ahmed Reshi, like the mix of various ingredients seen in ralmill while narrating his double decadal journey as a snack cart vendor. Ralmill, a traditional snack, is a mix of various ingredients such as chopped dry dates, roasted peanuts, coloured candies including the mimosa sugar balls (local shirni), raisins and chopped dry coconut (khopra).
Bashir Ahmed, 65 from Baghwanpora Barbarshah Srinagar has been in the business of selling varied items including snacks, Kulfi, firecrackers, and cigarettes on his cart for nearly two decades in Lalchowk. But eventually settled at ralmill as his chief item of sale with some cigarette packets, whole peanuts, packets of candied fennel seeds (mukhwas) locally known as ‘baidyaan mithai’ and roasted channa packets.
Bashir Ahmed waits for his customers in front of the food street near mechanised car parking and has dedicated most of his time selling kulfi in summers and ralmill in winters earlier in the Palladium lane. While describing the transition in local snack preferences he says, “Everyone prefers lays, Kurkure to the local snacks as rallmill now.” Chopping the dry dates to be added to the snack mix, he talks about how he started first as a cigarette vendor and has sold a variety of other items too including fish and bangol (firecrackers). The shopkeepers around frequently buy the cigarettes from his cart and he often obliges them by lighting their cigarettes.
“Everyone knows me here and I have many friends as I have spent forty years on the streets here (Lal Chowk)”
Bashir Ahmed is the lone bread earner of his family, which includes his wife and two daughters of which one was married off just a week ago. On being asked, how does his day’s earnings suffice the family needs? He answers with a smile which soon fills his eyes with tears saying “We get our ration for free now and that’s enough for one to survive.” He earns 200-250 bucks a day and centre of attraction is the cigarettes which earn him 100 bucks over a package.
His experiences with the customers
“Many customers would pay me extra money which I had always refused to take. I earn my living with dignity and how can I accept any extra buck for my earning,” says Bashir Ahmed while recalling his past experiences with customers. He is warm to his customers and generously hands over some channa to the visitors and allows no one to leave empty-handed.
On being asked about people’s remarks over his job, “Some people would just say that you have not prospered in all these years. Generally, people have been kind,” a teary-eyed Bashir Ahmed responds.
The neighbouring shopkeepers flocked him while being interviewed by Ground Report and were seen talking him down and passed comments as, “Not now, leave him, don’t annoy the poor soul.”
” I have my homemade tea for lunch, no rice and it has remained so for the past 25 years now.” He sets his cart up at eight in the morning and works diligently till 9 PM. It takes him half an hour to close his cart and another half an hour to reach his home. Bashir Ahmed is content with whatever life has provided him and wishes for nothing.
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