Fayaz Ahmed is a father of two sons who are 7 and 11 years of age, but have just been admitted to a local school run by the government. The reason for such late schooling is the financial conditions of their family which has been poverty stricken since the 1990s. What happened is the 1990s has proved to be detrimental for every artisan of Kashmir who earned through his hands in the craft sector. It was the introduction of power looms which wiped out the present and future of craftsmen and forced them to change the way they earned, where neither they were financually satisfied, nor happy. There was a time when Fayaz Ahmed, was a master craftsmen as far as embroidering a Pashmina was concerned. He was young, handworking and energetic. He used to travel by foot, those distances, which other artisans used bicycles for. Fayaz was strong, determined and efficient in his work. The time other artisans took to complete a shawl, Fayaz completed in 4-5 days less. The group with which he worked earned very well and thus Pashmina embroidery survived their entire families. Tragedy struck when machines took over and all the glory that Fayaz had once witnessed was now reduced to shambles. Fayaz's father passed away due to old age and all the responsibilities of surviving the family of 8 fell on his young shoulders. Fayaz was just 12. From working as a salesman at a Pashmina showroom, to labour, to becoming a cleaner and doing household work in the neighbourhood, Fayaz's magical hands, which once mastered embroidering Mughal pattern motifs, were now either soiled with dirt, or parched and tired of working at households, doing all kinds of work. He never complained, and "once lovingly called a chatterbox" was now as quiet as a mouse. Surviving his family had taken a toll on his mental and physical health. But Fayaz worked as hard as he could, until one day, one of his father's friends (Mr G.N. Bhat) found him buying groceries for a neighbourhood house. "What are you doing here, and why are you working for someone"? he surprisingly had asked Fayaz. Tears rolled own his cheeks, as he remembered Bhat uncle who once was his father's partner and a very close friend. But Bhat had shifted his business to Kolkatta and left Kashmir, only to return after 10 long years and see his friend's family suffering badly. After realizing the heartbreaking condition of the family, Bhat immediately introduced Fayaz to one of close elatives, who still worked with Pashmina. And Fayaz happily agreed to embroider the shawls that this relative of Bhat made over machine. Time passed and Fayaz realised that he is earning meagre. What happens in the Pashmina supply chain is that the maximum profits go to the final seller, who sells directly to the customer. After he takes up the maximum earnings, the next in line is the retailer who sells him, next the wholesaler who slls to the retailer, and finally after a few more middlemen to intrude, the minimum wage remains for the artisan - in this case - Fayaz, who was again left heartbroken and hopeless. There was something Fayaz had learnt in this factory. The platform of online selling. One fine morning, as the embroidery artisans took a tea break, Fayaz searched for Pashmina selers Online. And the first name he could see was Pashmina.com.
Pashmina.com and Fayaz
When we recieved his call, his voice was quavering, perhaps because he hadn't spoken to an outsider before. We heard him, his ordeal, and next month we were sitting in his house with him. "Pashmina is gone", exclaimed Fayaz. "The money, the satisfaction, the happiness that each artisan felt in his heart will never come back. Pashmina was actually our life ebcause every single person in a household was associated to it" When asked about his current factory, Fayaz sighed "Everything that we deserve is taken up by the Maalik (owner). The least of the least is for us, which is impossible to survive upon. I have a wife and kids, and my mother. We are a famiy of 5 and a meagre Rs 50 per day wont do. Our team saw some of his shawls that he had hidden from everyone because those were is favourites. We could not believe that a 13 year old bpy can embroidered like this. It is then and there, when we decided to work with Fayaz. Today Fayaz is 40 years of age, has 2 kids who go to school. All that he deserves goes to him alone, because of our belief of fair trade and ethical business. When Fayaz gets a consignment of a shawl, he gets paid immediately. Now Fayaz feels the satisfaction again, because the shawls that he recieves as exactly as pure as he did in his teens.