PESHAWAR: Formerly known as Phoolon Wali Gali or the ‘Flower Street’ in Peshawar’s Qissakhwani bazaar is now referred to as Koocha Risaldar.
Here, most of the flower shops have been replaced by cellular phone shops – thanks to the technological revolution and growing dependency on cell phones that has made sharing of sentiments not only much easier, but also economical. “Until a few years back, there were around 30 flower shops on this street; today there are only three,” says one of the shopkeepers Mohammad Sadiq. He blames the ‘age of cellular phones’ for the loss he has incurred in the recent past due to the increasing sales of cell phones in the area.
“Selling flowers is no longer a profitable business also because they are quite vulnerable to the weather and wither in a day or two because of the heat,” adds Sadiq. As a result, most shopkeepers have started selling artificial flowers that can last a year. Compared to a garland of fresh roses that is sold for only Rs7, a garland of artificial flowers cost nearly Rs50. Sadiq is of the view that frequent terrorist attacks in congested areas of city have also dealt a blow to their ancestral trade as people fear stepping into crowded lanes in a market.
Most flower shops have now shifted to Ramdas Bazaar and Dalazak Road, while some shops continue with their businesses in Fawara Chowk within Cantonment limits, The Express Tribune learnt. The flower shops in these areas have been doing good business. Riaz, a trader in Ramdas Bazaar, told The Express Tribune that he has fared well in these past few years despite the terror attacks. “We share the citizen’s grief and joy. People need to purchase flowers in both the cases to express their emotions,” he said.
However, he sadly adds that he has witnessed more sales after terror attacks. “People no longer care for joyous occasions here.” In the past, adds Riaz, he often received some extra money in tips upon decorating a car for someone’s wedding, but that is no longer a practice now. “No matter how much effort you put in, no one will give you even an extra penny for your hard work.” It is for this reason Riaz is compelled to look at other job options and wind up his flower business.
“I am planning to do away with this business and set up a sharbat stall by the end of this year.” Another trader, Zahid, said that he has to buy flowers from the nearby Jalal Market before he can sell them at a profit in his shop. Fresh flowers at the Jalal Market are brought from nearby villages by growers themselves on a daily basis. “Sales increase on the eve of Hajj and marriages,” says Zahid, who is busier on weekends when most occasions are held. “Spring is a good season to do business as well.” On the other hand, to cater to the needs of those residing in the city areas situated on Kohat Road including Bazidkhel, Shahabkhel, Arbab Khel, Sheikhan and Kaka Sahib in the Nowshera district, flower farms have been set up.
Mohammad Jan, who belongs to Bazidkhel village and owns a flower farm, said that the farms situated on the Kohat Road contribute to some 90 per cent of the total flower sales in provincial capital. He added that roses remain the most popular flower among people and do a better business than other seasonal flowers. “This village is famous for its flowers. Whether a rich government official or an ordinary man, everyone in this village is associated with the flower business in one capacity or another,” he said. Majority of the women are also part of this business who make garlands of flowers at home that are later sold in the market.
Each one of them is paid Rs 150 for picking flowers and making a garland. However, Jan admitted that the business has been affected and sales have declined in the recent past owing the rise in terror attacks in Khyber- Pukhtunkhwa. “These are hard times on Peshawar. The absence of flowers – which is a symbol of joy – in this city bears witness to this fact.”
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.