SRINAGAR: An old man with wrinkled hands and twinkling eyes stares at Khankah-e-Moula shrine from a broken window pane of his shop. ‘Ark-e-Gulab’ is the only shop left in the town that deals in rose water, which is both the specialty and irony of the shop.
With a look of disappointment but pride in words Aziz Ahmad Kozgar narrates the story of the shop that he inherited from his father, Habibullah Ahmad.
“My forefathers were in this business for past 500 years,” says Kozgar.
Ark-e-Gulab, which literally means rose water, lies adjacent to the Khankah-e-Moula shrine in FatehKadal area of Srinagar. Filled with the smell of roses, the shop is dying a slow and sweet death. With empty jars, broken vases and a still wall-clock, the shop seems to be entirely dipped in melancholy of its dying scent and class.
“Long back rose water making used to be a vibrant and rich business in Kashmir. The big glass jars required for making and preserving rose water were exported from France and England. Till 50 years back, these costly jars were numerous in number, but now only a few are left,” says Kozgar in a low tone.
With no new takers, the business is on the verge of extinction, while a rich resource of Kashmir is breathing its last. However, Kozgar, is still hopeful. The call of prayer by Muezzin can be heard from Khakha-e-Moula, filling the air with faith and hope.
“This may be the only remaining shop of its kind in the entire Valley, but even then I am hopeful. This shop is very close to my heart and I have faith that it will survive and continue to preserve the precious Ark-e-Gulab even after my departure. I don’t know how but I believe Almighty Allah will find a way,” Kozgar says.
A valuable natural potion, rose water was also used as a remedy to cure illness in past. Going down the memory lane, Kozgar refreshes the success stories of Ark-e-Gulab, of how hakeems of Kashmir had faith in the healing power of rose water, and prescribed it to sick people.
“Rose water is remedy for many diseases but as the English medicines took over, the healing power of rose water lost its significance. Now its use is restricted to mosques only, where it is sprinkled over devotees,” opines Kozgar.Ark-e-Gulab: