Kashmir is replete with stories of trauma, pain and lost hope, but a man, determined to fight all odds, is a living example of optimism, faith and progress — setting benchmarks for others to follow.
The 66-year-old pickle shop owner, Haji Ghulam Qadir Senoo, popularly known as the ‘Pickle king of Kashmir’, did not lose hope even after having lost three family members and a thriving transport business to the 20-year conflict in the Valley.
He instead looked ahead to transform his gloom into something good and set an example for others.
“There was a time when everything seemed to have come to an end, but my passion kept me going,” Mr Senoo told PTI.
Mr Senoo took over the business from his brother and 30 years into it, he has transformed a small pickle vending shop into a famous brand, ‘Senoo Kashmir Pickles’ — home to almost 100 different varieties of mouth-watering pickles.
As one steps into ‘Senoo Kashmir Pickles’ in Habba Kadal area in Old City here, the shop welcomes visitors with a tantalising aroma that instantly creates a desire to taste the colourful delicacies. Mr Senoo serves a whole range of pickles with wide varieties, as many as 100, each with a different flavour. The varieties of pickles include chicken, mutton, vegetable, fish, mango, cherry and as he says “you name it, I have it“.
What also leaves a lasting impression is the way the old man opens up with a warm heart, despite the magnitude of loss he has experienced.
He proudly says no one else prepares Apricot-pickle in Kashmir as he displays it and “Ahmedabad is the only other place in India where tasty Mutton-pickle is available.”
The pickles at Senoo’s have enticed the taste buds of one and all — from local Kashmiris to customers who come from far away places like Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Germany, Italy, France and Indonesia.
Apart from the non-vegetarian variants, which are most wanted in this part of the world, Mr Senoo’s preparations include the much in demand bitter gourd, locally known as ‘Karela’, which helps to keep blood sugar level in check.
Other mouth-watering and medically beneficial pickles which Mr Senoo prepares include ‘amla’, apple, plum, garlic and a host of other varieties. He plans to add more varieties, like turnip and chillies.
“Garlic is known to be good for heart patients and fights cholesterol and respiratory problems,” he says as he lists the benefits of other varieties priced between Rs 100 per kg (mixed-vegetable) to Rs 500 per kg (mutton-pickle).
The pickles are prepared in refined oil and cleanliness of the utensils and surroundings is taken care of properly.
Packaging is done such that keeps them fresh for a long time.
Mr Senoo says it takes a lot of time and energy in preparations and sometimes, in peak season he often has to work day and night.
The demand is high mostly in the months of June, July and August, for many marriages are solemnised during that period in the Valley. Mr Senoo is preparing for a bulk order for a party in Mumbai these days.
He wants to preserve the art and trade, which, he says, is an important part of Kashmiri culture.
However, it seems the authorities are indifferent to his tasty preparations. Mr Seeno says his efforts to get a license to export his pickles haven’t borne fruit thus far.