Ever since the machine was introduced to make Pashmina shawls, the art lost its cultural grace and became one of the modern accessories which are available everywhere in the world in every shop. Gone are the days when one had to travel to Kashmir itself to just get a glimpse of a Pashmina shawl, hand embroidered in a hundred colours and patterns. Now Pashmina is like any other dupatta or odhani that a shopkeeper or an online website will sell for cheap. That is because these shawls aren't even Pashmina. They are an amalgam of Pashmina, silk, nylon, angora wool and sheep wool. Hence they are cheap, widespread and full of an artificial shine. Ghulam Mohammed, the oldest of the weavers we met, is 85 years old now. It has been more than 60 years since he started weaving Pashmina shawls in his twenties. The period was simple and Pashmina artisans enjoyed a beautiful time. This community was considered the most skillful and were respected even more than the others. Ghulam Mohammed, his father, his uncles and women in their household, all were associated with the making of Pashmina. Even though machines were the primary cause of ruining hand artisans of their glorious days, Ghulam Mohammed believes that its is the middlemen in the supply chain of Pashmina, who are the true culprits. He believes it is them who ruined the craft of its original value. "It is the middlemen who are the major villains. They always have exploited weavers by paying them the lowest wages, and selling the yarn at higher rates to the looms. I believe they will be earning Rs 3,000 per kg", says Bhat, who is fed up of the long supply chain in Pashmina trade. He believes that the supply chain should be shorter so as to increase the amount paid to the weavers and spinners, who are the actual masters of the craft. "It is us who make the shawl. What do sellers do other than owning large spaces and selling the shawls to customers?", he asks. Ghulam Mohammed's shop used to be abuzz with customers and retailers who wanted a piece from amongst his masterpieces. His hands were blessed, and the finesse and flair in his handwoven Pashmina shawls was difficult to find with any other weaver of his time. But now, only a few customers visit his shop maybe once or twice a year.
Ghulam Mohammed and Pashmina.com
"Till now we haven't found a promising enterprise which would support this traditional craft. As such, weavers are being forced to sever ties with the ancestral inheritance which would once run through generations. But since you are here and you have just chosen handmade pieces, I believe you will help revive this craft once again", says this hopeful artisan, who wants the world to know that handmade Pashmina is the pure one and that the machine made shawls should be banned at once. We are honored to have Ghulam Mohammed with us who we lovingly call 'Chacha', and we sincerely hope to return his happy days to him.