The dying art of GERMAN KHAARS
ONLY THEY COULD REPAIR THE MACHINES MADE IN GERMANY
CRAFT BY MAJID MAQBOOL
In a narrow lane of Banduk Khar locality in Rainawari, Ghulam Mohiuddin Ahanger, 60, works alone in a small room in the corner of the garden outside his home. Scattered in front of him are instruments for repair work, like blood pressure machines, and parts of surgical equipment. Using a handful of tools, Ahanger can repair all of them by hand, and even come up with their exact replicas.
Famous as “German Khars”, the Ahangers are among the few blacksmiths left in the valley who have the special skill to repair foreign-made instruments.
The art of repairing things was passed on to them from their fathers and grandfathers. During their times they became known as German Khars for repairing German-made machines which no one else could repair in the valley. Ahanger says they have been doing this work since past two hundred years. Now the work is restricted to only a few homes in this locality. “Two of my brothers do this work in their small workshops, others are not interested in this work anymore,” he says.
Ahanger says their great grandfathers came to this place from Hazara in Afghanistan. And that’s the reason this locality also came to be known as hazare bazaar. Their grandfathers would also repair guns in the past. “But they had to give up on that work as the government imposed ban on gun repair work,” he informs.
Ahanger cannot recall working with the guns during his time as his father had given up on gun-repair work by the time he learnt the craft. “Then our fathers started working on repairing hospital equipments which we are continuing till now,” he says. Failing to earn enough money, while many blacksmiths in their locality have moved on and taken up other works, the numbered German Khaars have stuck to their traditional work of repairing instruments by hand. “We can repair any equipment that is brought to us and even make its exact replica,” he says.
Ahanger recalls his grandfather telling him that once they had stopped repairing guns after the government imposed ban, authorities from chest disease hospital in the city approached them with a damaged German-made surgical instrument. The Ahangers not only repaired it but also made its exact replica. “Had they not repaired it, that instrument had to be sent back to Germany for repair,” he says.
Ahanger says since their grandfathers would repair things as efficiently as the Germans (famous then for their technical expertise), they came to be known as German Khars. “Except for us, no one else could repair German made instruments in the valley,” he says. “It was Maharaja Hari Singh who named our grandfathers as German Khaars after he came to know about their skills in repairing German made instruments and machines,” he adds.
Sometime back a complex machine, used for carrying out surgeries in one of the private hospitals, developed a technical snag. Ahanger was called to the hospital for its repair. He repaired the machine within no time. The Ahangers say they’re often called to the Lal Ded hospital and SKIMS, and other district hospitals when big machines develop technical faults and stop working. “Otherwise the hospital authorities have to send these machines outside the state for repair work,” says Ahanger.
He shows some of the American equipments lying with him for repairs. There are blood pressure measuring machines, pressures cookers, and parts of oxygen machines lying all over his room. Foreign nationals come to them with their equipments, which they know can’t be repaired anywhere else in the valley. These days most of the work is coming from private hospitals. “We get hospital equipments from many private hospital for repair work because they can’t be repaired anywhere in the valley,” he says. The Ahangers first ask for the literature of these equipments from the hospital authorities, and then they study the diagrams that show its working. Mohiuddin says they get ideas on how to repair them accordingly, and if needed, they can even make their duplicates. “The doctors know about our work, and if any of their equipment is broken, they send it to us for repair,” he says. He even makes his own tools required for the repair work of some machines.
“We have less work now. There is less money to be made from his work,” he says. Ahanger’s son works in a private school. He says their craft will die with them as their children are not interested in learning and taking up their work. “We learned this craft by staying around with our fathers and grandfathers and watching them work, but our children are not interested in sitting with us and learning it,” he says. “This work is done by hand and requires a lot of patience and working at one place,” he adds.
Few houses away, his elder brother, Habibullah Ahanger, works in a small room. He is a frail, old man. The octogenarian is working in one corner of the small room outside his house. Habibullah says he was 16 when he started working in the workshop of his father. For the past 60 years he has been repairing things brought to him in his small room. His room is filled with tools required for various kinds of repair work. He has difficulty in hearing. He takes regular, hourly breaks during the day to rest from the strenuous work. He says he can’t continue working for another year.
“We have been doing this work since the time of Maharaja Hari singh,” informs Habibullah as he works on one delicate instrument used for fishing. He says theirs is the only family which does such repair work. Foreigners come looking for us with their equipments, he says, as they know only we can repair their equipments that have stopped working.
Habibullah is also unhappy about the government apathy towards their craft. He says in the past, during the PDP led government, they were promised some pension, but that never materialized. “The government gives good salaries to their employees, but they don’t appreciate and encourage the work of craftsmen like us,” he laments. “So everyone goes after government jobs here.”
He believes now it’s too late for any government intervention. “Now government should at least give us some pension as we have been doing this work for our entire lifetime,” he says. “I am too old to work for another year now,” he says and puts aside his handmade tools. “If they give me some kind of pension, I will have some money to feed my family in my last years.”
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Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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