Through the warren of lanes in interiors of Rajbagh, a house with old architectural grandeur built over sprawling turf remains abuzz with activity these days. Some people are found walking while others in their high end cars frequent the place all day.
This is Harco House, the party headquarters of Jammu and Kashmir’s Peoples Movement (JKPM) floated by bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal in January this year.
But before turning Faesal’s mainstay, the house belonged to H A Rahim, the erstwhile baron of fruit canning industry in north India during 60’s era. Rahim’s Harco company was one of the leading exporters of fruit jams, juices, jellies and other fruit caning items during that era.
Success in business and affluence had prompted Rahim to build the house in 1963.
“Such was the magnificence of the house that you could easily view it from present day TRC,” remembers Abdul Rashid, son and lone scion of Harco’s.
Another thing that made senior Harco heartthrob of his native people was its “large heartedness”. During that era Harco’s used to provide packaged food as complimentary to pilgrims leaving for Haj pilgrimage. That time when transport was minimal in Kashmir, Harco’s used to run bus service free on Eid for people heading for Eid prayers to Kashmir’s largest Eid ground in Srinagar’s downtown.
The canning fruit unit still runs near Silk Factory at Rajbagh.
Remembers Saleem Beg, Kashmir’s Intach head, whose organization is involved in conservation of heritage and who is keenly involved in the region’s past, that Harco’s were a prominent business class of the time. “I remember Harco’s and another SAMA were tycoons of fruit canning industry of that time. Particularly, Harco was a huge a name to reckon with. They were exporting their products to foreign lands including south east Asia,” said Beg.
With a class apart of the time with modern facilities, the house’s grandeur had attracted Bollywood to it as well. Particularly veteran actor and superstar Shashi Kapoor shot his two movies including ‘Pyaar ka mausam’ alongside versatile actress Asha Parekh in 1969, ‘Piglata Huwa Asmaan’ in 1985 alongside Rakhee Gulzar and Rati Agnihotri.
“Sanjay Khan (Bollywood actor and director) also used to visit our house. I remember when on my wedding day whole of cabinet headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had visited our house. It is something I cannot forget,” said Rashid.
Quickly he adds that their house was a “landmark” to identify Rajbagh locality in those yesteryears.
In those days many people across Srinagar’s downtown remember how buses plying in its interiors used to be dotted with Harco hoardings.
The Harco’s used to reside in the house until 2012, when the family decided to shift to Nishat on the Dal lake banks.
At present the outhouse at Harco is the office of JKPM. Khalid Imtiyaz Wani, private secretary to Faesal, who mostly remains stationed at the office, said people feel “hassle free” to come here. “People come and abreast Dr sahib with their problems. There is no hierarchy in place. They feel at home here,” said Wani.
Since January when JKPM hired its office at the Harco’s, many political bigwigs and actors have visited the place. The last to visit was veteran actor Prakash Raj who addressed youth at the place, remembers Wani.
Ask Rashid why he handed over his cherished possession to Faesal, he said: “He is educated and civilised”.