Namda’s Last Hope: Changing The Face Of A Dying Craft From Kashmir
Namda is the craft of making felted carpets from beaten wool, and trails back to over 600 centuries. These floor covering are primarily made of pure sheep wool, but cotton may also be added in varying ratios. They act as insulators, and are warm in winters, and cool in summers.
Farooq Ahmad Khan has mastered this art over the last 35 years. He has worked since the age of 17 to preserve a familial skill that spans over twenty generations. He remembers admiring a carpet as a young boy, and being so motivated by its beauty, that he knew he had to obtain absolute supremacy in his techniques. He fondly remembers his training period, and says learning was a back-breaking affair, but he knew he had grasped the art when he shrunk his wastage of raw materials. He recalls a sense of overwhelming euphoria at his accomplishment.
Khan highlights the lack of remuneration in his craft, and is seeking to raise rates to ensure the survival of Namda. The craftsmen community dwindles everyday, because daily wages of Rs. 300 are incomparable to the minimum wage of Rs. 500 that may be obtained doing manual labor. Khan refuses to train his successors till there is a significant change in wage rate. His firm principles are matched by a firm handshake, yet his demeanor remains soft. His eyes express sentiment when he underlines the sorry state of the crafts industry: he becomes exasperated at the injustice of meager stipends, and utter lack of respect of artisans. Not once though, would you consider that he is not committed to his purpose of seeing better days for his successors. His involvement with Commitment to Kashmir (CtoK) proves that a fire of hope still burns in him.
CtoK has been working to uplift Kashmir’s shrinking craft sector: Khan is presently working with designer Gunjan Jain, who is helping him modernise designs such that they are more marketable. She has helped his venture into making toys, apparel, and accessories such as bags and tea cozies. Another innovation that has been attempted is a technique called Nuno felting, that blends silk fabrics with wool fibers. While Khan is an expert at hand rolling, the technique is laborious, and use of the rolling machine (a recent invention by Zufa Iqbal) will increase his productivity tremendously. Hand rolling allows 2 people to make one 4x6 rug in a day, whereas the rolling machine could produce the same rug in half an hour. Gunjan has also introduced needle felting, which is an option that may be pursued by his wife and daughter (who are involved in Aari embroidery).
Khan feels indebted to CtoK, and says the organisation has helped cover 75% of his costs. He wishes to thank Gunjan for respecting his vision, and always being a mindful listener.