SRINAGAR: On a sunny morning, a middle aged man leaves for work on his aged bicycle. With his lunch box swinging from a side of the handle, he paddles through the lanes and by lanes on Srinagar outskirts. After paddling six kilometer distance from his home, he halts his ride only to begin his day overwhelmingly tending to vast stretch of garden filled with tulip bulbs.
Shabir Ahmad, a 48 year old gardener is not alone, he is soon joined by a number of co-workers in their routine endeavor. Every morning a troupe of workers take to the vast fields in a picturesque garden on the foothills of famed Zabarwan hills growing lakhs of bulbs which finally grooms into world’s one of the largest tulip show in Asia’s largest tulip garden at Srinagar. Through out the year these workers work in tandem to make the show a real success.
“I have been working in this garden for last eight years. Round the year, we work hard to grow such a large number of bulbs in this garden. Interestingly all our labour seems to pay off as the garden witnesses a majestic tulip bloom by the end of March ”, says visibly upbeat Ahmad.
The grand tulip display on the banks of Dal lake calls for a lot of care, maintenance and hard work. “Growing tulips need a lot of hard work. We sow these bulbs in the month of November. From December onwards, the plants need lot of care in the form of pruning and deweeding. Even we clean the snow from patches to provide the requisite care to growing bulbs. From February the plants are sprayed with fungicides periodically. The process continues during their bloom too”, says Shaiq Rasool, Deputy Director Floriculture Kashmir while describing the growth cycle of tulip Himalayan climate. After the blooming period is over, the bulbs are plucked out from the fields, cleaned, sorted, fumigated and then stored in cold storage till the next sowing period. The whole process needs round the clock work and all the credit goes to this team of dedicated workers , adds Rasool while referring to the staff and labourers posted in the garden.
Formerly known as Siraj Bagh, the picturesque stretch of 600 Kanals of land nestled among mountains on the banks of world famed Dal lake was transformed and developed into Indra Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden in 2007. The sensational additions to the flora of the valley in the form of tulips, daffodils,hyacinth and ranunculus were brought from Europe mostly Holland.
The garden holds a record for growing the number of tulip bulbs. Comprising of scores of varieties of colored tulips, the soul refreshing garden is expected to bloom about fifteen lakh tulips this year.
Dr Inam, In-charge tulip garden says this season, 1.6 million tulips comprising of 72 varieties are expected to bloom this season. He says the department has added four more varieties of tulips this year in the garden.
The mesmerizing view of thousands of blooming tulips sends any onlooker into gaiety, reminding one of the Words Worth’s ‘Thousands I saw in a glance … ’ couplet. Made into terraces, the design of garden and pattern of tulip lawns give a unique outlook to the Asia’s largest tulip garden. The successful tulip show has preponed the tourism season in the region.
As the flowers bloom by the third week of March, every year the government throws open the garden for public for about a month. The natural display of vast number of tulips blooming simultaneously is an international fame now. Tourists from the country as wel as outside India have started to visit the valley to have a glimpse of tens of lakhs of tulips at a single place in the valley.
“I have come to the valley for third time now. Tulips of different colours blooming over such a vast area of land is an absolute beauty. I have been totally mesmerized by the charming spell of this garden. It seems that the Netherlands has come to Kashmir!”, exclaimed a Rohini, a software professional who has come to visit the garden for the first time with her husband from Mumbai. The tourist couple said that the people should come and visit this garden at least once in the life.
Tulip garden has become a centre of attraction in the spring season in Kashmir. In addition to drawing thousands of tourists from outside UT, the place is a popular destination among the local picnickers too.
Traditionally valley used to witness the tourist footfall by mid April , But now the tulip garden has added more days to tourism season here, says Dr Ishfaq Ahmad, teaching economics in the university of Kashmir.
From school children , peer groups, families to foreign tourists, as the visitors enjoy the natures bliss on the Zabarwan foothills, the workers like Ahmad cherish the moments watching the smile and smell in the air.