The age-old tradition of pottery has gained the attention of the Jammu and Kashmir government after an engineer-turned-potter pitched for the revival of the dying art in the Valley.
Saima Shafi, 32, popularly known as 'Kral Koor' (potter girl in Kashmiri), was recently invited by the state's handicrafts department to share her experiences with the artisans of Beerwah in central Kashmir.
During her interaction with the artisans, the overwhelming response for the revival of pottery in Kashmir made the handicrafts department official decide that data on such artisans will be collected in order to work out schemes for them.
Shafi, who works as a junior engineer with the Public Works Department here, asked the people present at the function to ensure that they teach the art of pottery to their future generations.
"Curd still sets down best in an earthen container and clay pots have their effect on making the water sweeter and colder during the summers. One ought not to forget that while the wickerwork makes the Kashmiri Kangri a bright and cheerful sight, at its core is an earthen pot made by a potter," she said.
Urging artisans not to look only at the government for help, she asked them to get associated with non-governmental organisations in order to understand the changing techniques in this trade globally.
Addressing the gathering, Shafi said the time has come where we need to bring the centuries-old tradition of pottery back into modern Kashmiri kitchens.
She informed them that stoneware clay from Haryana can make utensils from the potter's wheel and it can even be used in microwave ovens.
Later talking to a group of potters separately, Shafi told them about the Burzahom archaeological site in the Kashmir valley, that has remnants of the stone age and is awaiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
"During excavation, there were earthen pots discovered that had been made during the stone age. The place is very close to Srinagar city and tells the tale of ancient links to pottery. Please pass this art to your next generation so that we remain connected to our roots," Shafi said.
The civil engineer said she learnt about the present irreverent state of pottery the day she started looking for an institute that can teach this art in the region.
"If we know the trade, where are the institutes that teach this? Why are government schemes not popular among the potter community… These are questions that need to be answered," she said.
After her working hours and on weekends, Shafi frequents places within the Valley that were known for pottery a few decades ago.
She visits the local potters, sparsely distributed in the region, to preserve their traditional techniques for posterity. Her dual identity of an engineer and a potter draws surprised responses from these artisans.