Manzoor Ahmed Wani
From the past 20 years, Manzoor Ahmed Wani starts his day at 8:00 am in the morning and embroidered thin and intricate embroidery patterns over the fragile Pashmina, and ends this work at 7:00 pm. These painstaking 11 hour work hours has cost him his health. Manzoor says there is stress on his eyes, his back aches at a young age of 36, and his shoulders and knees experience continuous pain. The needles he uses are thin and there are pockmarks on his fingers because of continuous unintentional pricks that these fingers get. All this, and huge mental stress - is what Kashmiri artisans of Pashmina go through. Once living the life of kings, artisans who were associated with the famed and cherished Kashmiri Pashmina handicraft sector are now living a difficult life as they earn as low as Rs 100 a day - which isn't even sufficient for their own self. Even after working in harsh conditions, the artisans have been requesting the government from the past 20 years to improve wages, but all in vain. Similar is the case with Manzoor. Really disappointed with the measures that government has taken, Manzoor wants the share of artisans to increase. "If a Pashmina shawl is selling at even 100000, why do we get only Rs 100 or 150 out of it", he asks. The wages of Pashmina artisans have been the same since its inception. But during that time, it would be sufficient to survive families on it. Today, the times are more difficult and Rs 100 isn't enough for an individual, let alone a family of 10-12 people.People would still opt for Pashmina making because they had loved the same since their childhood. "We had watched our parents, grandparents do the same, we never wanted to give break to this inheritance, so we opted for it even though the earning was less, but little did we know that this earning wouldn't even suffice our basic needs", says a somewhat disappointed Manzoor. "Pashmina work was so much respected and revered in our society that 2 year old kids, who didn't even walk properly, still had the idea of Pashmina, and could say terms like Pashmina, embroidery, weaver and the like.
Manzoor and Pashmina.com
Manzoor wants us to somehow rehabilitate the art of Pashmina and its artisans who are mostly living in drudgery and pity by being offered peanuts for their work. Him and other artisans who work with him in a small room of a house requested us to promote handmade Pashminas and ask people to differentiate between handmade and machine made. "If people will realize the difference between handmade and machine made shawls, they will never buy machine made - even if it is given to them free of cost", says Manzoor.