Had political disturbances and violence not shrouded the hidden treasures in this Paradisaical valley of Kashmir, its artisans with hands of gold wouldn't have been suffering like they are in the current scenario. This part of the world brims with art and craft but the makers are least known to the world outside. One such craft that the entire world is smitten with is Pashmina. Be it the making, the weaving, embroidery, designing, all processes related to the completion of Pashmina are worth observing for hours together. But what is apparently the most and what is admired the most is the embroidery. Sozni embroidery, the type of thread embroidery which is mostly done on Pashmina, is as intricate as it is colourful. Sozni artisans need to be careful, attentive, and highly skillful to embroider a Pashmina. These artisans are much experienced, have worked on shawls for more than 10 years sometimes, and are highly creative and imaginative beings. One such artisan who works with us currently is Mehboob Ali Beigh. A winner of two national awards, Mehboob is as humble as he is talented. He has received three state awards in 1987, 1988, and 1989. He has also received national awards for his work in a Jamawar shawl in 1996 and another for Sozni in 1997. His father has won state and national awards too. and the same goes for his uncle and brothers who are all Sozni embroidery artisans. The Beigh's welcomed us into a dim-lit 2 story house with 5-6 rooms where a large room had been fully occupied by raw material, threads, and a number of finished shawls. "We have always loved our craft. This craft in the past made us visit foreign countries and judge several young artisans. It gave us respect and admiration from the entire world of craft. We never received education formally, but with the respect that a white-collar job receives, we used to feel the same in the times when Pashmina art was at its zenith. But everything has changed now", a more disappointed Mehboob said. Since the advent of power looms and machines, Kashmir witnessed a downfall in the craft of Pashmina making. The craftsmen who were considered masters once are now just ordinary people who embroider shawls. "It fetches up to Rs 300 a day, which is not enough for one person even, let alone surviving a family. This is the reason people do not take up this job now. Even my grandchildren are opting for white-collar jobs instead of following family traditions" says Mehboob.
Mehboob and Pashmina.com
Mehboob was already known to us since he was a multiple award winner and our research had placed him amongst those on the top. We reached Alamgari Bazar, his hometown, and easily located his home. What Mehboob appreciates the most with Pashmina.com is our fair trade. No artisan waits months together to receive their dues. Payments are instant, well deserved, and bring a smile to their faces. And we do not treasure anything more than that.