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 closelyseen how a deserted hillock near the botanical garden was, over the years,converted into the tulip garden, which is thronged by visitors from across theworld every year.
The efforts of people like Rather always get overshadowed inthe official pomp and show. Rather said he vividly remembers how his father, aveteran gardener who would work with the state's floriculture department, usedto take him to various Mughal Gardens located along the Zabarwan hill range inSrinagar, when he was a child and made him to memorise the names of variousflowers and plants there. "I not only got acquainted with the plants andflowers, but also got to know how to plant all these saplings practically. Itis something that came naturally to me while I grew up," said Rather, who hailsfrom BreinDampora area in Srinagar.
He said the activity would be a "fun affair" for him, leastknowing that he would have to take it as a profession one day. "It wassomething necessary for us to do those days since I belong to a family whichhas 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 myfather's death in 1973 when I had just passed my class 10."
"That was the time when the skills of gardening taught by myfather 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 18gardeners and an equal number of labourers, started conversion of hillock intothe 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 thedepartment in winter. "You know how harsh winters we experience in Kashmir? Weused 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 wouldbe a "hit".
After the decade of inception of tulip garden, it has becomea top priority for the government authorities to ensure opening of tulip gardenin time owing to its successful attraction of domestic as well as foreignvisitors. Next year, Rather said he is going to retire from his service. "But I am contended with whatever I haveachieved in my life," he said. Every year, Rather said, he has been witnessingsmiles on desolated faces visiting the tulip garden.
"A doctor heals people's ailments through medicine. I, as aflorist, heal their aliments through bloom of flowers," Rather said.