The decade of 80s was the golden era for the paper machie. The artisans were par excellence and represented the epitome of glory. It always fascinates, to observe, how an artist brings life to an object with the motifs of chinar's in soulful color combinations and breathe taking symmetry. The artwork is very delicate and for many years one has to learn how to hold a brush and draw the floral designs on various objects. The exquisite strokes of the brush is the artistic genius and one is fascinated to see the excellent displays of this art at many historical places.
The pecuniary rewards and global recognitions brought them fame and financialsecurities. This was bread and butter for them to live a dignified life in thesociety.
It won't be a surprise for many of us to agree that theirincome was satisfactory and sufficient to meet the basic necessities of lifeand provide qualitative education to their children. They led the king sizelife and felt immense pride for their profession.
One such artist of high repute was Sule Kak, who conductedhis life as if he were one of the greatest artist on the earth-a trueheavyweight- someone who had enormous self reliance and deep respect for theart that he created.
At his work place, as a morning ritual, the apprenticesprepared Hookah (Jajear), replacing its jar with fresh water, cleaned the bowland placed a thick ring of tobacco on it, chiseling a fine pit in the centerfor the coals, ignited it with ' Home Light' match sticks for the intoxicatingsmoke .
It was painstaking, they had to rub and smoothen theroughness of different objects and color their outer surfaces. It was onlyafter many years of toil that SK would guide and let them do the main framework. Such was the work culture and the hardest way to teach and promote itdown the line but he could never compromise on the quality of work.
He always met the deadlines for the order executions and ontime deliveries but no one could stop him to miss a cricket match(as he was thefast bowing sensation in local competitions) and last show on Fridays. He hadhis own circle of friends who could easily purchase the tickets at the Firdous,Shiraz and Shah Cinema's.
Life was not all about work, every summer, his friendsaccompanied him to pay obeisance at the Baba Rashi Shrine. They cooked togetherand stayed there for a night. In the morning they trekked to Gulmarg to enjoythe horse and gondola rides. Next month, they would plan a locality trip toPahalgam and boarded the KMD bus for the journey. They camped near the roaringriver, assembled and served thedelicious wazwan. Post dinner, they played cards till the dawn, and alsoarranged the beddings for those who were dead tired. These social get togetherswere cherished by every family.
Such were the best days of life, people lived carefree lifeand were not familiar with the diabetes, hypertension, cancer and otherdreadful diseases. Even the expired medicines could do wonders and healed thepatients.
And then there came a time when every trade was affected bythe 90's unrest and economical crises but paper machie suffered beyond limits.Due to curfews and hartals, people remained confined and tried their hands onit. Some black sheep's started mass productions on a very low rates and becamethe reason for the sub standard qualities.Day by day the situation only becameworse to add more financial burdens and daily uncertainties. Like all others,SK couldn't meet the both ends and started selling the vegetables. Time passed,so did his ventures and even the STD business couldn't survive for too long.
In all those tough times, SK tried hard to provide basicaffordable education to his 3 daughters.The family could only survive on thelimited paper machie income and couldn't fetch him more than 5000 Rs,so he and his spouse started workingat a local firm for a fixed monthly salary of 14000 Rs. The family lived veryhappily until the day his spouse felt a lump in her right breast.Their smallworld turned upside down and further medical investigations revealed that shehad reached at stage 3.
Sometimes ignorance is blessing but the treatment andmedical bills took away his peace of mind. He moved from pillar to post toarrange the money and took her to Apollo for the oncology surgery. His affluentcousins did not come forward to console and help him in this uphill battle.They are the same philanthropists who are always anxiously waiting to replacethe torn masjid floorings but maintained criminal silence on the humansuffering. Charity should begin at home but more than anything else it has onlybecome a showoff business.
SK was helpless and restored to social media campaign on FBbut unfortunately those paper warriors hardly contributed anything and yes, Ina month, there was a surprise money of around 17000 Rs credited by few peoplefrom the middle east.
But life doesn't stop here, few people arranged the financesand expensive medicines to save her ontime. She is doing well and resumed her work as well.
Few months back, I took my mother for a routine check up atKaran Nagar , saw this beautiful renowned woman entrepreneur who do I knowthrough the FB. After few days through her updates was shocked to know that shewas also suffering from cancer.
Death and diseases don't spare anybody but still people are deeplyengrossed in worldly affairs without any value for the human life.
Paper machie is the crown of our rich heritage but it is atits highest decline as the people are no more dependent on it and have alreadystarted investing in other fields.
One renowned national award winner is driving the autoRickshaw for the survival and others have ended up being J and K ATM guards.
It's high time for the government to revive the strategiesand frame the art courses which can be taught at the college levels to save ouridentity, a source for them to earn the livelihood and introduce medicalinsurance schemes, so that the precious lives can be saved and people are notforced to beg for their survival and take the streets for their loved ones.
A lot can be done, but a little effort and compassion arehighly required from all of us to make an IMPACT!