Shopian: In a dimly lit room, Abdul Ahad Dar and Mohd Shafiq Wani have been toiling hard on a wooden loom, for past seven weeks, to complete weaving of a carpet.
Maintaining a great hand-eye coordination, the craft artisans scan through design and color codes across the parchment.
Their fingers move quickly across a thick strip of threads. Between 300 to 1000 knots per square inch, it is one of the most intricate forms of weaving in the world.
“But sadly at the end of the day, we barely make between rupees 100 to 150 each,” Ahad says, in Kashmiri language.
It takes months to complete a hand-knotted average size carpet, he says.
Depending upon the knot density and quality of material, the handmade carpet costs lakhs of rupees in the market but sadly the craft artisans, who toil hard for months to produce such special carpets continue to remain underpaid.
Ahad and his fellow artisan in Balapora village of southern Shopian district barely make a living for past some years as hand-made carpets find seldom buyers in the market due to avalability of a variety of cheaper machine-made carpets.
The dearth of buyers have badly impacted artisans as contractors offer them very low labour cost in a bid to sell the hand-made carpets on a relatively affordable cost.
The poor artisans appeal government for support to enable them make a respectful living and more importantly save the centuries-old carpet industry from dying.
To make the matters worse, months long shutdown following abrogation of Article 370 last year and lately the Coronavirus pandemic have further impacted the livelihood of artisans and pushed the industry to the brink of closure.
Not very far from Ahad’s house, another artisan, Mohd Shafiq Wani, is also struggling to make a living, he told Curtain Raiser.
Shafiq cites low labour cost and lack of interest towards hand-made carpets as main reason behind a downfall of carpet industry.
He too appeals government to pay attention to the centuries-old craft and extend support to artisans to revive the industry.
Owing to low labour cost and meagre work oppportunities, many artisans have helplessly quit their jobs in recent years and choosen alternative means of livelihood for sustenance.
King Zain-ul-Abidin, who ruled Kashmir in 15th century, had introduced the art of weaving to Kashmir.
The failure of successive governments to revive the craft coupled with over three decades turmoil in Kashmir has also contributed a good deal in impacting the carpet industry.