It has been over 30 years since Mohammed Ashraf started working as a weaver at his own home under the guidance of his grandparents. Ashraf's father had passed away when he was just 10, and since then it was his grandfather who trained him to work over the classic wooden hand loom which produced the fragile and light weight Pashmina shawls, scarves, hijabs and even handkerchiefs. Both Ashraf's grandfather and him worked together on a hand loom. Ashraf was 10 when he started working on the loom, and his grandfather was 66 at this time. People would be amazed to see this combination of a grandfather and a grandson working together. It was just a few years and Ashraf became as efficient on the loom as his grandfather was. It was only because he loved to be associated with Pashmina, and to be in the company of his grandfather, who was his only support after the tragic death of his father. In the year 1983, Ashraf's grandfather too passed away, leaving all the legacy of Pashmina that this family had inherited on the shoulders of young Ashraf who was 30 back then. But since he was smart and immensely talented, Ashraf did it all alone. He managed everything himself. From buying spun yarn, threads and needles to working on the loom along with his younger brother, who he managed to train within one year, Ashraf became the lone bread earner of this household. And within just some years, he was able to retain the name and fame that his grandfather enjoyed in the past. Life was good, Ashraf's family was content, until the machine age interfered. "The weaving of the traditional pure Pashmina shawls was done on handlooms which was an art in itself. It took us about 5 to 6 days to weave a single Pashmina shawl. But nowadays, manufacturers have started using power looms to produce shawls. And since Pashmina is fragile and cannot bear the stress of a machine, it is blended with yarn of angora or sheep wool. The shawl such formed is an impure Pashmina, and in our sight, it is not Pashmina at all", says an angry Ashraf, who feels that Pashmina is synonymous with handmade. "Even if the machine is able to produce large quantities of shawls in less time, we do not like to call it Pashmina. It is just a shawl for us, which contains some amount of Pashmina", he added.
Ashraf and Pashmina.com
Poor weavers who were the real saviors of the craft are still managing to hand make Pashmina shawls at their homes. And that's where we meet them. We visited Ashraf at a local household where him and a few of his friends who all happen to be weavers have managed to purchase a handloom and hand weave Pashmina. "Even though we earn less, but we cant compromise on quality and purity of this treasured craft", Ashraf says. Ashraf and all his weaver friends insist us to encourage the world to use only handmade Pashmina shawls. They wanted us bring to the limelight the fact that machine made shawls are fake and hence cheap. And we couldn't agree more. Indeed the real Pashmina - the one over which ancient queens and nobles would swoon over - was the handmade shawl, and we promise to revive the art and bring back the lost glory that Pashmina once enjoyed.
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