From barter system to digital transaction, this hawker has seen it all
Bhat, 80, a resident of Khanqah-e-Moula Srinagar is a familiar face in dozens of villages in Awantipora.Image provided by author

From barter system to digital transaction, this hawker has seen it all

Awantipora: Carrying a small decrepit wooden glass box holding bangles, bracelets, combs, and hair bands inside, a wiry Ali Muhammad Bhat walks down the streets and alleys of Awantipora selling his merchandise.

Bhat, 80, a resident of Khanqah-e-Moula Srinagar is a familiar face in dozens of villages in Awantipora.

“He has been walking around in this area for the past many years now and is known to many of us,” said a resident of Awantipora town.

Bhat, an itinerant peddler, has travelled across the length and width of Kashmir with the same box during the last four decades.

“For the past few years, I restricted my travel to Awantipora and its adjoining areas only,” says Bhat.

He is one of the peddlers who is witness to the shift from barter system to digital money.

In late 1960s and early 1970s, Bhat would sell mainly his merchandise for goods like paddy grains, eggs and walnuts.

“Money was rare during those days and trade in villages was usually done in the form of barter system,” recalls Bhat.

According to Bhat, he began selling his goods for currency notes around three decades back.

“Now things have changed altogether. Many customers ask me if they can transfer the money to my account via mobile,” he said. Although Bhat does not own a smartphone, he is aware of digital money.

He believes that money has made the trade easier.

“In barter trade, we had to again exchange the commodities for currency notes as the barter practice was mostly prevalent in rural areas of Kashmir,” says Bhat.

There were hundreds of peddlers like Bhat who would travel on foot village-to-village, selling their goods.

However, the practice tapered off over the past two to three decades.

“There were many peddlers in my locality, but now I think I’m the only one left doing this,” Bhat said.

“The peddlers now travel to villages and sell their goods using modern transport facilities instead of going on foot.”

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