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In Kashmir, 200 years of honesty, tradition and trust
Monday October 7, 2013 11:51 AM, Sheikh Qayoom, IANS

For over 200 years, five generations of this family have been running a grocery shop in the Old city of Srinagar. Even after two centuries, the Gan Wanis, as they are known across the city, are still doing it the traditional old way!

The shop in the Zaina Kadal area is named after the person who set it up over two centuries ago.

The small shop, now run by Ghulam Nabi Wani, 63, is situated at a corner of the road outside the mausoleum of the 15th century king Zainul Abbadin, who was called 'Badshah' the great because of his wisdom and vision.

By an unmistakable similarity, the shop is still the most trusted address for Kashmiris who believe in buying genuine, unadulterated grocery including spices, teas and edible oil.

In fact, no known chef who cooks the traditional cuisine called 'Wazwan' will do so if spices and oil have not been bought from this shop.

"High quality, mouth watering Wazwan has almost become synonymous with this shop," Bashir Ahmad, 63, who comes all the way from the northern town of Duderhama in Jammu and Kashmir's Ganderbal district, 30 km from here, to buy his monthly requirements, told IANS.

Ghulam Nabi Wani has maintained the grand old ambience of his shop almost the way it was five generations back.

Small tin boxes and bags are spread haphazardly in the shop. The cotton strings holding the weighing plates have given way. The nearly six feet tall Wani sits majestically on his wooden settee, making one wonder if Badshah the great King would have enjoyed the same trust and love as Wani does from his customers.

"I was hardly 15 years old when my father took me to the shop and told me that it was not just another grocery shop that he was handing over to me. My father said it was worship and family honour he was entrusting to me.

"Father told me those were the words his father and forefathers had said when handing over the shop to the next generation.

"For years I sat alongside father, learning how he treated every customer, irrespective of whether he bought goods worth a few 'annas' or hundreds of rupees with the same respect and love.

"My customers know me and my family by name, and so do I. It is a relationship that has spread over generations on both sides. For me, a customer is always a friend.

"How can one cheat one's own family? Customers come to me from every part of the Kashmir Valley," Wani says, as he picks up the seedless cardamoms from an already weighed quantity to replace those with the seeded ones for a customer.

"Cardamom is purchased for its seeds, and I am ensuring that no fruit is seedless when the customer takes it home," he said.

Wani has ensured that the family legacy passes to his son intact.

Naseer Ahmad Wani, 25, is also running a grocery store some distance away on the same road in the Old city.

Although the son uses electronic weighing balances and has half a dozen helpers to pack goods for customers or loading things onto waiting vehicles, buyers who go to Naseer's shop are only those recommended by his father.

"That is the power of honesty and trust," explains the father.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)





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