Unlettered, as most of his generation was, Ghulam Nabi Dar, a 68-year-old man from Malik Sahib area of downtown Srinagar, did not own a pen and paper.
Poor Dar was in fact discharged by the school authorities when he was in 3rd standard, for his family was unable to purchase a uniform for him and pay his school fees.
Yet, in the parallel world, Dar turns out to be a prodigy, who picked up the metaphorical wood carver's chisel to create magic on raw planks of wood on one hand and carve a niche for himself in the art of woodcarving on the other. Does not matter he could not be a student, sexagenarian Dar has been a master anyway!
Born in a poor family, the "enforced" school dropout, being the eldest to his parents, had the added responsibility on his shoulders due to which he had to look for work at once.
The challenge was further exacerbated given his father's business losses around the same time. "I had no footwear and used to cross the Safakadal bridge bare-feet," Dar vividly recalls.
Soon, he started to work under one Abdul Razzaq Wangnoo, a local wood carving artist and being a newbie, Dar's work was to do dishes and carry the wood carving tools for Razzaq, he told Greater Kashmir.
Dar worked with Wangnoo for five years and it was only in the last year, the master started to pay him two rupees fifty paise a day as monthly salary. "The first four years, he only paid me on Eid and whenever he liked to," Dar said.
But more than the monetary returns, it was the passion for learning the art, which kept him going.
After leaving Wangnoo's workshop, Dar came under the aegis of another wood carving artist in the neighborhood, Abdul Aziz Bhat and used to carve designs on windows and doors at a renowned firm namely 'Subla & Company'.
The shift to the new master was the turning point in Dar's career as he developed a fascination for the art even as his family also supported him seeing their son's knack for the art of woodcarving.
"My father wanted me to learn this art perfectly, so he asked Aziz even if he wanted to pay me less, he could, but told him to teach me effectively," Dar recalled.
Seeing his parents' eagerness to see their son as an artist, Dar too developed a passion. He said he fell in love with the art "like Majnu fell for Laila".