SRINAGAR — Amid honks of hundreds of vehicles that pass through the busy Amira Kadal bridge in the heart of Srinagar, Mogli Begum sells fish on the footpath, which otherwise is meant for the smooth passage of pedestrians.
Mogli reaches the bridge early in the morning with dozens of fish in a small tin-made box filled with small amount of water. She has been doing it since past five decades to support her family.
Unmindful of the odour that dozens of fish produce from the box that remains in front of her, Mogli tries her best to lure customer to buy fish from her. Wearing a traditional gown (pheran), Mogli shouts loudly, “zinda gade ha che (my fish are alive)” just to attract customers.
In a chat with us, Mogli, a resident of Hazratbal area of Srinagar, is a cheerful woman, struggling hard to make her both ends meet. Some call her Mogal masi or Moghal mouj as she is a widow and lone bread-earner for her family comprising three daughters and a son.
“I want my son and all three daughters to study, that’s why I am here,” she says, amid a gentle smile on her face. “All of them are studying and I don’t want them to discontinue.”
Mogli comes to her workplace to face more problems at the hands of police officials who tell her to leave the place where she has been working all these years. “Unless, government provides us alternate space to sell fish, we won’t shift from this place,” she yells. “If we stop selling fish here, we will be left with no option other than to beg. This is the only source of our livelihood and we are here since past over five decades.”
Besides Mogli, there are dozens other fisherwomen, who have their own tales to tell. Mogli says, she earns enough to feed herself and her children. “Due to my old age, I am not able to go to colonies or other city outskirts like other colleagues,” she says. “I have at least 50 committed customers, who won’t buy fish from anyone else. I will continue with this job till I am alive. We are born for this thing only.”
She gets almost 15 kgs of fish from a relative every day and reaches Amira Kadal Bridge in the morning and stays there till she empties her box. “This is our tradition and culture. Kashmiris have been fond of eating fish since so many decades. We are keeping this tradition alive. Otherwise, who would go into the river to catch fish? People of Kashmir don’t have that much time,” she says, amid a laugh.