Bashir Ahmed Wani
Pashmina in the past was the backbone of families. If there were even 20 people in a family, the elders would all be associated with Pashmina. Pashmina was the bread and butter for men as well as women - who were mostly spinners. This was inheritance. Skill of weaving or embroidering a Pashmina would be inherited by son from his father and by father from the grandfather in the family. And as such even if a person earned Rs 50 a day, it was more than sufficient to take care of every single need in the family. But as time passed, the amount of Rs 50 became less than enough for artisans and before they could raise their voice to demand an increase in compensations, tragedy struck. The introduction of power looms in the 1990s The emergence of power looms snatched what little was left with hand artisans. A handmade shawl which took artisans a month to weave took the power loom just 15 minutes. As such, it was just the owners of looms who could cater to the high demand of Pashminas in Europe and Asia and the condition of hand artisans went from bad to worse. Pashmina is a delicate material, which is too fragile for the power loom. Hence it is mixed with nylon or other strong threads to be processed in a loom. Later this shawl is treated with chemicals which dissolve the foreign threads and make the shawl purely Pashmina again, but this isn't always the case. Some traces of foreign threads remain and make the shawl slightly impure. The shawls woven on machines are such processed that they give the impression of a pure Pashmina shawl, but as far as durability is concerned, they wither away in 5-6 years, whereas pure Pashmina would remain intact for a lifetime. Fake and unauthentic Pashmina are sold at cheaper rates which makes them sell like hot cakes, little do uninformed customer realised that they are buying substandard shawls. The power looms menace in the valley has snatched livelihood of around 2 lakh poor artisans. Most of these artisans especially men switched to the other labour works but women remained totally unemployed. Eventhough there are still artisans who are associated with this craft but least satisfied as they are being paid negligible amount for their painstaking craftsmanship. One such artisan is Bashir Ahmed Wani. Wani is a 55 year old artisan who hails from a quaint village, feels that desperate measures should be taken to improve the condition of hand artisans. "We do not earn anything today, everything is expensive. What we were paid 10 years ago, it still remains the same. Is that even justified?" says a disturbed Wani. He continues "We do not want our children to carry this legacy. We enjoyed this work, but they wont. Kashmir needs Pashmina as much as anything. This has been there since centuries. What are we without it"
Wani and Pashmina.com
Wani wants us to familiarize the world with handmade Pashmina. He believes that we should inform each customer about the beauty of handmade Pashmina and the ugly face of Machines and power looms. Wani is one of our most respected artisans, who feels honored to work on our pure and authentic Pashmina raps, stoles and scarves.