Ghulam Nabi Dar
The luxury Pashmina is regarded as a status symbol in Kashmir. It is known as cashmere in the west because Europeans discovered this fiber in Kashmir first. The acquisition of this fiber is a labor intensive and painstaking process. Raw wool comes from a different breed of goats called cashmere goat or Changthangi or Kashmir Pashmina goat found in Ladakh region. The goats grow a down coat in winter and naturally sheds it in Spring. This down coat is made up of the finest and softest fiber called cashmere and one thread has a diameter of 12-16 microns. One goat sheds approximately 80-170 grams of fiber. An original Pashmina shawl requires adept skill and experience of an exceptionally skillful craftsman which Kashmir had been abundant in, and still is. Since late 16th century, the art of weaving, spinning or embroidering Pashmina has been a child's play for artisans who have doing it since 30 years now. But is the experience, skill and talent worth it? Mess of Machines The Pashmina sector, is witnessing a decline in the machine age, and artisans find it hard to make their ends meet. Long and unscheduled working hours are impacting their health and what they receive as compensation is peanuts. As per official data, 2.5 lac artisans have lost their livelihood. It is those for whom Pashmina work was the only source of income. Ghulam Nabi Dar (50), an artisan from Budgam, who ekes out his living by doing Sozni embroidery on Pashmina shawls, often feel pain in the neck, shoulders and knees after long hours of work. Sozni work is intricate and has thereby affected his vision as he has been associated with it since 30 years. Dar has worked on ‘Pashmina Jamawar shawl’ - a shawl filled with embroidery such tat the base isn't even visible – for three years now, for which he was paid a meager amount of Rs 40,000, and that too, in installments. Dar has a family of 7, who are fully dependent on his earnings. How can Rs 40000 suffice their needs? Dar has been living a life of poverty and earns hand to mouth. He has two daughters, parents and a wife to take care of. If the dilapidated condition of Pashmina here in Kashmir remain the same, chances are that every single artisan might switch to other jobs.
Dar and Pashmina.com
Dar wants us to give his message to the world,"A machine made Pashmina will not last more than 5 years. It will look ugly and withered and defeat the purpose of buying it at the first place. Handmade shawls on the other hand will stay intact for even 30 years. Go for handmade. That way you and us - the hand artisans - both are benefited. Help us, support our art and say no to machines. Dar has been working with us from one year now. He receives his compensation on time and has been able to sustain his family in a better way.