Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

When Shahtoos and Inder Defined Excellence in the Exquisite Shawl From Kashmir

Sadly, Inder has fallen victim to a thing called progress

Kashmiri spinning wheel goes into oblivion

RABIA NOOR (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar, May 2: Once an important source of livelihood for women folk in Kashmir, the traditional Kashmiri spinning wheel has almost gone into oblivion.

A decade or two ago, an average middle-class Kashmiri women after finishing the household chores would involve themselves in spinning activity to give some succor to their families. But now the use of the spindle type spinning wheel is mostly restricted to widows and destitute.

The spinning wheel locally known as Inder has got a great significance in the Kashmiri culture. The famous pashmina and shahtoos shawls that are considered unique for their quality, texture, softness and elegant look would be woven from the threads spun on the wheel.

Spinning wheel is entirely made of wood except a thin iron rod fitted to its left. With the turning of the wheel, rotates the rod. The wheel is made of small planks, placed in two circles, with a joint in the centre holding them together and parallel at a certain distance from each other.

“The wheel is operated in a sitting posture, with the right hand rotating its wheel and the left hand holding properly the cleaned and softened aggregate of wool against the sharp pointed end of the rotating iron rod, so that fine threads of wool come out.

Recalls Begam Aaisha of Rajouri Kadal: “Earlier eighty per cent of the women would spin the wheel and it would be considered a great art.”

“Spinning wheel is a time consuming process and requires a lot of efforts and patience. On an average it takes over 20 to 25 hours to spin a 50 gram wool,” said a woman from Nigeen, adding that that means so much of hard work. “So nowadays hardly anyone prefers it,” she said.

Another homemaker Rafiqa said that earlier women would make a satisfactory earning out of spinning wheel, which is not the case now.

“Nowadays mostly women are busy with so many things from home to office, hence that leaves little time for them to spin the wheel. Earlier not many ladies would go outside the home for work,” said Anjum Khan, a working lady.

“This activity is now preferred by only those, who really have no other means of income,” she added. However, those who spin the wheel did not seem satisfied with what they earn. Most of them said that they did not earn more than Rs 200 a month with this activity.

Tahira Gusani, widow of a tourist guide, who was killed in a mine-blast at Dalgate four years back, does not have any source of income other than spinning wheel. However, that does not meet her daily requirements. “I spin the wheel for sixteen hours a day, but do not earn more than Rs 200 a month,” said Tahira. “I could get nothing from my in-laws. In fact they even grabbed my dower. Whatever I earn is spent on the daily activities, and is in fact much lesser than what is required for the education of my children, who study in a private school,” said Tahira, adding that she has to spend around Rs 3000 a month on their studies.

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