Withering Tulips at the Foothills of Misty Zabarwan

Thirteen years after Siraj Bagh became Indira Gandhi Memorial Garden, 1.3 million tulips are withering without catching an eye. As pandemic enforced a new lockdown, the festive flowers have lost both their eager audience and admiration.

Abid Bhat

IN anticipation of a beautiful spring, many gardeners were toiling hard to prepare an enchanting rainbow landscape near the banks of iconic Dal Lake.

Once everything was done, and the spring wasn’t far away, the pervasive pandemic hit and held the tulips hostage.

What’s left now is a grieving garden, bordered by misty mountains, filled with desolation and housing some long-faced landscape gardeners lamenting over their ‘lost labour’.

The signature springtime buzz has faded, so has the sense of resurgence of life on the bed of colourful flowers.

Those who’re still guarding the garden call it a jinx.

“Seeing the garden like this breaks your heart,” said one long-faced landscape gardener.

“It’s like seeing your hard work going down the drain.”

Every season, as some garden enthusiasts arrive as sightseers, they would praise these landscapers of tulip garden for their deftness.

For these simpletons, the acknowledgment for their hard work would serve as a morale-booster.

But at a time when the world is fighting a war against the virus, hardly anyone seems caring about the withering tulips at the foothills of the Zabarwan range.

However, for the gardeners, the deserted garden is a supposed sign of some ‘divine wrath’.

“Desolation like this is unprecedented and beyond human control,” said another gardener.

“It’s indeed a divine wrath!”

With the arrival of spring every year, the garden would witness festivity. What was otherwise a traditional spring festivity at Old City’s Badamvaer had shifted to this garden after its inauguration 13 years ago.

The tulip celebrations would officially start the tourist season in Kashmir, drawing horde of visitors and tourists in the garden.

As a part of tourism efforts by the government, the annual tulip celebration was aimed to showcase the range of flowers in the garden.

To woo tourists, even free Wi-Fi, more fountains, washrooms and drinking points were installed in the recent past.

But now, the tulips are fading in isolation.

As Asia’s largest tulip garden with more than 1.3 million flowers, mostly imported from Holland, the garden was first thrown open in April 2007.

It was to become the second largest tulip garden in the world once the entire area of 28 hectares is brought under flower cultivation.

Built on a sloping ground in a terraced fashion, the garden consists of seven terraces.

It has 50 varieties of tulips, having average life span of three to four weeks.

Since the tulips have a short life, the idea was to introduce other varieties of flowers like lilies to keep the garden colourful during the entire summer.

But despite adding varieties of flowers like – hyacinths, daffodils and ranunculus, the garden remained a fleeting springtime showpiece.

Formerly known as Siraj Bagh, the garden also hogged headlines over its contentious past.

The rightful owner’s struggle to retain the rights over the swathes of swish land was conveniently sidelined, as the tulip festivities took over.

But as Ghulam Nabi Azad government named it as Indira Gandhi Memorial Garden, a joke among officials was: The Gandhi family loyalist has finally placed daughter close to her father in Kashmir.

The tulip garden bearing the name of India’s “only man in cabinet” stands right adjacent to the garden bearing her father’s name: Nehru Memorial Botanical Garden.

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