Last year, Kashmir saw unprecedented floods, the worst in the last six decades, which wreaked havoc in the lives of many. Overnight, the floods washed away everything people possessed - homes, property, and factories. 65 year old Bashir Ahmad, a weaver, was among the most affected.
Bashir started his career as a helper in a small handloom factory 45 years ago. Fuelled by a burning desire to continue the craft his ancestors were known for, and to make a name for himself, he started off on his own. With a single semi-automatic loom, he started making Khatan cashmere shawls and started selling them to retailers in and around Kashmir. Word spread and he was able to secure a few orders from outside of Kashmir. Within a few years, Bashir was able to purchase a few more looms and employed weavers from his village.
Inspired by their father who excelled at his craft, Bashir's son and two daughters started helping him with the business. While one daughter set up a small classroom to teach the children of the weavers and neighbours, the other started using hook-work technique on cashmere shawls, enhancing them and making them far more beautiful. This unique artwork was an instant hit with the retailers, and soon he secured a large order to export to famous labels in USA. His 25 year old son managed the loom and finances of the unit.
But the 2014 floods in Kashmir completely changed Bashir's fortunes. Overnight, the entire unit was water-logged. Tonnes of silk yarns bought on credit for export orders and worth lakhs of rupees were completely ruined. Overnight, he was back to where he started.
Bashir says, "Initially I contemplated migrating to a big city like Delhi and restart my life. However, I decided to stay back for three reasons. One, I had secured export orders from retailers - both here and abroad. It's my duty to fulfill the commitment made to them. Second, there are many families who are dependent on me. They've worked with me for years. I can't turn my back on them. And above all, this is our ancestral trade - this work should not stop with me. It should keep growing for generations to come."
From just a few yarns and a loom saved from the floods, Bashir has been able to make some money. Despite the money made so far, Bashir desperately needs funds to keep up his commitment to the retailers. However his philosophy surprised us all, " I don't want charity. I just need some financial support to renovate my factory damaged by the floods and invest in a loom. I have enough confidence in our ability to turn things around, and will repay every penny provided to me."
See the video here -
This Independence Day, See The Never-Before Told Story of Kashmiris And Their Dreams. Learn more: milaap.org/makeinindiaPosted by Milaap on Thursday, 13 August 2015
Bashir is currently seeking a loan of Rs 500,000. Let's collectively support him as he rebuilds a better future for himself and his fellow Kashmiris.