Meet Ghulam Rasool—the man behind tulip bloom in Srinagar

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The tulip bloom at Srinagar’s famed tulip garden leaves thousands of visitors mesmerised every year, much to the delight of GhulamRasool Rather.

Rather—the head gardener at the tulip garden—has closely seen how a deserted hillock near the botanical garden was, over the years, converted into the tulip garden, which is thronged by visitors from across the world every year.

The efforts of people like Rather always get overshadowed in the official pomp and show. Rather said he vividly remembers how his father, a veteran gardener who would work with the state’s floriculture department, used to take him to various Mughal Gardens located along the Zabarwan hill range in Srinagar, when he was a child and made him to memorise the names of various flowers and plants there. “I not only got acquainted with the plants and flowers, but also got to know how to plant all these saplings practically. It is something that came naturally to me while I grew up,” said Rather, who hails from BreinDampora area in Srinagar.

Rather—the head gardener at the tulip garden—has closely seen how a deserted hillock near the botanical garden was, over the years, converted into the tulip garden, which is thronged by visitors from across the world every year.

He said the activity would be a “fun affair” for him, least knowing that he would have to take it as a profession one day. “It was something necessary for us to do those days since I belong to a family which has a reputation of producing some of the finest gardeners over the ages,” Rather said. “I wanted to become a doctor, but had to shelve my plans after my father’s death in 1973 when I had just passed my class 10.”

“That was the time when the skills of gardening taught by my father came handy for me and got me a government job,” he said.

Over the years, Rather rose through the ranks and earned the fame among his colleagues in the department for his gardening acumen. This was probably why Rather was the first choice for the then government to head the project of tulip garden, in his field of work, in 2007. “I was called up by higher ups in late 2007 during Azad sahab’s (GhulamNabi Azad) tenure. Those days I was working as head gardener at plant introduction section at Chashmashahi. My higher ups deemed that I was apt for the job, probably impressed by my work throughout my career,” said Rather.

Rather along with a group of 36 workers including 18 gardeners and an equal number of labourers, started conversion of hillock into the present-day terraced tulip garden.

“It was an arduous task considering the nature of the soil. It was an orchard land, which is pretty hard to till,” Rather said.

He said the work to build the garden was started by the department in winter. “You know how harsh winters we experience in Kashmir? We used to collect firewood and keep it burning all day to keep ourselves warm,” he said, adding that he knew that once their plan gets takes a shape, it would be a “hit”.

After the decade of inception of tulip garden, it has become a top priority for the government authorities to ensure opening of tulip garden in time owing to its successful attraction of domestic as well as foreign visitors. Next year, Rather said he is going to retire from his service.  “But I am contended with whatever I have achieved in my life,” he said. Every year, Rather said, he has been witnessing smiles on desolated faces visiting the tulip garden.

“A doctor heals people’s ailments through medicine. I, as a florist, heal their aliments through bloom of flowers,” Rather said.

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