October 24, 2020

Carpet weaving destroying dreams; Few tales

This is feature over the consequences of the engagement children in carpet weaving centres in Kashmir . The author narrates tales of few children whose dreams were shattered by their shift from classes of schools to carpet loom rooms
Adil and his family were happy that they had a Qaleen or carpet loom at their home. Adil was the third child among five. His two elder brothers were illiterate and hence labourers. Adil’s younger siblings were not highly educated. His sister was unmarried and was an Anganwadi helper. His youngest brother was working as a porter in a defense camp. Learning Persian and Arabic was the passion of Adil’s ancestors , but Adil and his siblings were not so lucky enough to learn a lot. The situation was not supportive and conducive enough for them to learn something very productive . Living in a village and agriculture being their main source of income, his father and his elders brothers were busy in earning while Adil took to Qaleen Kaar (carpet weaving). When he was in the primary school, he was forced to abandon his studies. It is because in the 1980s, some so-called affluent people of the village brought the Carpet Weaving to their village. They were good enough to bring monetary benefits to the village and they would not remain idle at different places like margs( Meadows), charaaes( grazing lands), Wudars( Karewas), etc. However the misery was waiting for them after a brief lull. The village, being illiterate, had some hope of literacy when in the 1980s some students like Adil started their schooling at a local primary school. They were happy because they found a lot of innovative things to do. Books were windows for them to look at different things and places. They felt pity over those who were busy in child labour, but they didn’t know that the misery that was more horrible than theirs, was waiting for them, with mouth wide open. Adil was forced to abandon his studies. One day, as he returning for lunch from the school, in the corridor of his home, his modest school uniform was put off forcefully by his father. He could not understand at that time what his father was doing to him. But one thing was crystal clear that the liberty of theirs was being taken away. The local primary school contained spaces for both the school and the Qaleen Waans( Carpet Looms). He wept to his might but his father, being a hardcore person, was in no way kind to him. He was told plainly that your freedom was over. He was flatly told to learn Kasb( Skill) so that he could live his own life with ease. It was not surprise for him because at that time, poverty had collapsed people. People didn’t knew the value of education but they only knew better it was to earn than to spend time and invest in education. However, it was very easy to take the route to education that time. In history, we learn about the bonded labour. Carpet weaving too easy like that. Innocent children were to sign a contract for a year or two through their parents. A small amount of money was given in advance to their parents as a goodwill gesture that you were investing in something useful. Yes, for their parents, it was an icing on the cake. They could see the face of some notes and cherish them in their hands. They could walk proudly for they had money in their dirty pockets. However the children were caught in such a situation where they could only imagine torture, nostalgia and longing for the books. As the building contained both the school and the looms, the only issue was a shift of rooms: from classroom to Qaleen Waan (Carpet Loom). No, it was more than that. In classroom, there was a new world in front of the students. They learnt that my Creator, you are my hope and never leave me in want while in new rooms; there were tight strings that hurt tiny fingers. In classrooms, a teacher would give some time to rest but in the carpet loom rooms, there was a lunch break for 25 minutes. In the classrooms, there was a hope that one day would come when we would live like birds. There would be freedom and freedom but their wings of desires were clipped before taking any flight. They were fixed to the ground. Adil, after that day’s incident, woke up next day to prepare himself for the school but to his astonishment, he was gifted with some carpet weaving tools. In place of pencil, slate, and ink, he was to take iron and wooden tools with him. He was looking at them minutely but could not differentiate between the two. The former things needed freedom but no money; while the latter gave money but no freedom. Caught in this situation, Adil accepted his mother’s advice and with brimming tears, left for the same building but with a lot of differences. When he began to work on the loom, he could not understand anything. The rhyming sounds from the adjacent classroom would haunt him. He yearned to be among them, though they were done in number. But his heart longed to enjoy those illustrated books. He could but could not. Days passed and he had to bow before his fate. With each passing day, the pain was both increasing and subsidizing. But one thing was quite clear that he like others could not do anything for himself.
In classrooms, a teacher would give some time to rest but in the carpet loom rooms; there was a lunch break for 25 minutes. In the classrooms, there was a hope that one day would come when we would live like birds. There would be freedom and freedom but their wings of desires were clipped before taking any flight.
Carpet Weaving had come to destroy them. Yes, it was true that it destroyed them fully. Years passed and it took the shape of decades. Adil made this his occupation. Working under different teachers, he, at last, installed his own loom at his home under the tutelage of a teacher from downtown area. For Downtown area was the hub of this craft. However, they don’t belong to this craft now. For 15 years, Adil worked for them. He married in the meantime. He helped his family with some amount every time. Barring Friday, he was busy on his loom throughout the week. A sound was listened throughout the day when he used to make beautiful designs by the use of different tools. It was the happiest period because it used to contribute 9,000 crore to the state exchequer. Everyone almost was happy. Besides boys, girls also used to work on the looms for basic necessities. But the relationship of 15 years came to an end when before four years; Adil left working under his teacher who was from Downtown area. The reason was that this craft didn’t provide what it used to provide. He told Adil that I would not deal with it. Machines and government apathy have made it possible to let this craft reach this situation. I bid you goodbye. I would be here again but not as a teacher but like a common man. Finding himself in this situation, Adil went to the same people who had snatched his childhood from him. He told them that he would like to work under them. Seeing his talent, they okayed. Thus, began the new journey. It was both the mixture of happiness and sadness. But before months, when I went to meet Adil, I didn’t find him working on loom. I couldn’t believe that Adil who was always found working on his loom, was not there. I enquired about his whereabouts. His wife told me that his health is down. Sitting on a loom for a week for thirty years has costed him his health. He has gone to do some work. I began to look at the loom. I was weeping soberly. It has scars. The scars given to it by nears and dears. I put my fingers into it and began to feel the spirit of Carpet Weaving. I was reminded of my childhood when my uncle used to teach me how to make carpet. Weaving a carpet needs some music. My uncle had hundreds of cassettes of different periods of both Bollywood and local types. Muhammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Usha Khanna, Rajesh Roshan, Shailendra, Raj Kapoor, Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Lata Mangeshkar, Jagjit Singh, Nida Fazili, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Nadeem-Shravan, Gulzar, Mahesh Bhatt,cetc., were and are still found there. In local sense, he has Rashid Hafiz, Gulzar Ganie, Ghulam Nabi Bhat, Abdul Majeed Ganie, Farooq Ganie, Misgar, Abdul Rashid Farash, etc. He also has some Panasonic tape recorders there to display the ingenuity of the Japanese. Today, Adil hates to work on the loom. He doesn’t expect this craft to guarantee him a good life. He has two daughters. He is living separately. He wants government to intervene. He is hopeful that if government intervenes, there are chances that it may be revived. Many days have passed since I have seen Adil. I think he is cursing those days when he was forced to abandon his studies.
( The author is a freelancer and frequently writes for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are his own)

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