Spinning wheel no more lucrative means of income for women in Kashmir
Srinagar, Apr 28: Spinning wheel in Kashmir is an old practice whereby women would remain indoors and earn meagre amount to sustain livelihood.
Over the years, this form of labour has declined due to increase in prices of raw wool.
Those in the practice said the prices of Pashmina yarn was still the same as was decades back; and thus with the result, the number of women involved in spinning of wool in the Valley had also decreased considerably.
“There is no change at all in the prices of Pashmina yarn for past several decades. Earlier we used to buy 10 gram of unprocessed wool at Rs 12 or even less and would earn one rupee for nine threads of Pashmina yarn. But even though the prices of raw Pashmina has increased from Rs 12 to Rs 70, the price of yarn still continues to be one rupee,” said Asmat Jan of Nowhatta, who works at the Craft Centre of Shehjaar at Saida Kadal.
“I had no option but to give up the spinning activity,” she said.
Fatima, 60, of Rainawari, who also works in the Craft Centre, said she used to spin the wheel at home till some years back, “but then I left the activity since it didn’t meet my daily expenditures.” She said several other ladies at her home too used to spin the wheel and all of them left it.
“After withdrawing the activity, I joined the Craft Centre. I get better wages out of this job,” she said, adding that spinning wheel was however better for women for it didn’t required one to work outside the home. “But for other jobs, we have to leave home every morning. And it becomes much difficult for us to manage home and job simultaneously,” she said, adding that there must be a sufficient increase in the prices of Pashmina yarn.
Rafiqa, another woman from Rainawari, said she also used to spin the wheel but later left it because of fewer wages and no profits. “I did not earn more than Rs 200 a month with this activity,” she said, adding that she also found it difficult to get buyers for her product.
The traditional Kashmiri spinning wheel, locally known as Indre, has got a great significance in the Kashmiri culture. The famous Pashmina and Shahtoos shawls that are considered unique for their quality, texture, softness and elegant look are woven from the threads spun on the wheel.
A couple of decades ago, a large number of average middle-class women in Kashmir after finishing the household chores would involve themselves in spinning activity to give some succor to their families. However, once an important source of livelihood for Kashmiri women, spinning wheel is now mostly restricted to widows and destitute.
Sara, an elderly lady from Dirhama, said during earlier times three to five ladies in every home would spin the wheel and make a satisfactory earning out of it. “But now hardly any woman is involved in this activity unless she is really poor and needy. This activity is now preferred by only those, who really have no other means of income,” she said.
Experts here believe that the biggest jolt to the spinning activity has been the ban on Shahtoos trade. “The returns a lady would get in spinning of Shahtoos, she doesn’t get in case of Pashmina,” said Fayaz Ahmad, EC member Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“Suppose if one would earn Rs 100 out of 10 gram of Shahtoos wool, she earns only Rs 50 for that of Pashmina,” he added.
Fayaz said the women folk in Kashmir received the raw wool by two ways. “One is that a lady purchases the wool from traders and then after spinning it sells back to them. The price is fixed by the trader after a mutual agreement as per the number or quality of threads,” Fayaz said.
“Second way is that a middleman distributes raw material among ladies and pay them wages for spinning. The wages are also fixed by him,” he said, adding that no wonder the middlemen must be exploiting the women.
According to experts, it takes on an average 20 to 25 hours to spin 50 grams of wool. Spinning wheel was entirely made of wood except a thin iron rod fitted to its left.
With the turning of the wheel, rotates the rod. The wheel is made of small planks, placed in two circles, with a joint in the centre holding them together and parallel at a certain distance from each other. The wheel was operated in a sitting posture, with the right hand rotating its wheel and the left hand holding properly the cleaned and softened aggregate of wool against the sharp pointed end of the rotating iron rod, so that fine threads of wool come out. The threads spun on the wheel are taken to the weaver for weaving the cloth of shawls on the looms with his hands and feet.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 28 Apr 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 28 Apr 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 29 Apr 2010 00:00:00 IST
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