Kashmir's pedestrian market Polo View is a shopper's delight

The market was inaugurated 10 days ahead of the G20 meetings in Srinagar

polo-view-tariq Polo View market | Tariq Bhat

“Shopping under the canopy of chinar trees is a feeling that cannot be experienced anywhere except here,’’ said Deepa Baghai Singh, a resident of Lucknow, at Kashmir’s first pedestrian market - Polo View in Srinagar. Her friend Rashmi Singh said the market reminds her of similar places in Europe. “Pedestrian market in Paris and this market look similar,’’ she said. “I have been visiting Kashmir regularly and remember how the market looked earlier. It has changed for good.” She said a lot of effort has gone into designing the market. “I wish Khan Market and Connaught Place in Delhi, too, were turned into pedestrian markets but it is not easy.”

The chinar trees line up along the centre of the market with the thick foliage providing a natural canopy on either side. At night, the chinars are lit up. The lights from the shops accentuate the glow. The 450-feet double-row market was inaugurated 10 days ahead of the G20 meetings in Srinagar by Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. “People who will visit the market will get the feeling as if there are in Mumbai or Delhi,’’ he said. “More such markets will be built in Kashmir.”

The makeover of Polo View is part of a Rs 1,000-crore smart city project in Srinagar. A walk through the market is a journey through time, thanks to its rich history and architecture. Since the times of the British, the market has attracted Viceroys, Dogra monarchs and Bollywood legends like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor, for handicrafts, dry fruits and herbals products.

Earlier, a two-way road separated the two flanks of the market. Now the two lanes have been replaced by a cobblestone path - again a signature of local architecture. The market is also the first to be wire-free, with universal access, underground sewage and drainage networks, and underground electricity and communication line. Since its inauguration, locals and tourists have thronged the market for a stroll, selfies and shopping. Tourists explore the place without worrying about traffic snarls. Many come to spend some quiet time with friends and family on the benches near chinars. The shopkeepers say the sales are yet to pick up but they are ready to wait.

“The lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370 and Covid-19 slowed down the business,” said a handicrafts seller. “It took more than a year for Srinagar municipality to complete the makeover due to which the footfall was low.” He said the government deserves a thumbs-up for the good work. “This place has been completely transformed without tinkering with the traditional look of the place. The buzz about the market has turned Polo View into a key attraction for tourists.”

“This is my first visit to Kashmir. People are hospitable,’’ said Sandeep Jaiswal from Delhi. “Before leaving, I decided to visit Polo View with my wife and kid. I will come again and stay longer next time,” he said. One of the reasons Jaiswal came to the market was to buy a variety of garlic for blood pressure, from ‘Saklain’s Coterie’ - a shop that sells Kashmiri herbal products. Its owner, Saklain Kawoosa, said tourist footfall has increased manifold, but business is yet to pick up. “We appreciate the work that has been done and are ready to wait till things improve.”

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines

*Articles appearing as INFOCUS/THE WEEK FOCUS are marketing initiatives