Artisans giving up craft as demand, profit go down
Sultan Mohalla of SaidaKadal locality in Srinagar was once known for producing these reed mats that would furnish the floors in the length and breath of every Kashmiri household.
Weaving these mats was an important activity in the area. This mat was used to cover the surface with other furnishing on top.
Being made of natural material it has great insulation properties and was suitable for both summers and winters.
In yesteryears, Mala Begum (70) would make mats and witnessed huge demand from dealers, but the story is different now.
She and artisans like her are finding it difficult to get any customer for this commodity due to the competition from Ethylene Vinyl Acetate foam sheets preferred by people in their homes.
“I don’t remember my exact age when I weaved my first mat but I do remember when I weaved last one,” she said.
Mala and other women in the locality were in this craft as the production line was mostly dominated by women, helping finances of their households.
The marketing part was done by men folk who would sell the mats in every nook and corner of Kashmir valley.
Mala along with her husband brought up their eight children from the income of the craft. Last year her husband died, and since then she has not weaved any mat.
“It had become difficult for us to survive on the craft. My son is doing manual work to feed the family now,” she said.
“It takes two persons to weave a single mat which we sell for Rs 200 with a profit of Rs 50. It has now become difficult to survive on this trade,” she said.
Jana Begum, another weaver from Mir Behri, a large locality in Dal interiors, said that the new generation is now distancing themselves from engaging in this activity as the profits have gone down drastically.
“It (mat weaving) will die once we stop breathing because the new generation is not ready to take up the trade. And why would they when there is no future or returns from the craft,” she said.
“It will become a thing of past soon.”
The bulk of the raw material comes from Anchar Lake with very limited material available in Dal interiors.
The weavers said the demand is low and they now make the mats only on order.
“We make only when someone asks us for, otherwise there is no demand as it used to be,” another weaver, Muhammad Abdullah, said.
“I stopped selling Wagoo five years ago. There is hardly anyone who would buy Wagoo,” Sultan said.
Sultan, 80, said that for him it is hard to see the end of the thing which fed him through his life.