Indian workers and a million-tulip show

Visitors to Asia’s largest tulip garden in Srinagar, Kashmir, do not see the toil by low-paid workers that lies behind the spectacle

Adil Rashid in Srinagar

An explosion of colour – and long queues of traffic – marked the opening of Asia’s largest tulip garden in Srinagar, Kashmir. Over the next month, thousands of people are expected to visit the 30-hectare (74-acre) garden on the shores of the picturesque Dal lake to see more than 60 varieties of blooms during the annual festival, which opened yesterday.

Ghulam Mohamed Moti, one of up to 60 gardeners employed at the park, says casual workers should get job security and higher wages. Photograph: Adil Rashid

It takes a year, and an army of gardeners, to prepare for the event. “There are over 543 beds spread across the four terraces of the garden,” says the garden supervisor Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, who meticulously maps out which variety and colour of tulip appear in each of the large beds.

Work began on this year’s gardens as soon as the gates closed on the 2022 festival. Stems were pulled up and bulbs retrieved from under the ground. “Each bed can have 2,300 to 2,500 tulips,” says Mohamed Yousuf Khan, one of the festival’s two head gardeners. “Five people work on each bed, carefully removing the bulbs and placing them in crates. It takes them one full day to do this.”…

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