Located on the banks of the Jhelum at Lal Chowk, ‘Asia Crafts’ is one of the oldest handicrafts shops in the city, set up during the British era. The brand is known for its pure and antique paper machie and Kashmiri carpets.
It was 46-years-ago, Afzal Abdullah was given a responsibility by his father to carry on the legacy of handling their handicrafts shop in Srinagar which used to deal with paper-machie products. Today, as Kashmir witnesses economic slowdown months after the abrogation of Article 370, Abdullah is trying hard to sustain the business he has more than 100 artisans to support without any sales.
“We have nearly 100 people working for us. So far, there have been no sales since August and we are struggling. We didn’t get any Christmas orders and nothing for New Year too as there is an Internet shutdown,” says Abdullah.
On a chilly December morning, the salesmen in the shop sit idle. The shop was established in 1945 by the grandfather of Afzal Abdullah; today it is one of the rare shops in Kashmir that sells the authentic handmade paper-machie products. But the situation is making it difficult to sustain without customers.
“We were shut till October and when we opened there are no customers. We have literally not sold anything in these months. There are no tourists or visitors. Now, we have many customers outside who used to place orders online but the Internet shutdown has taken away that too,” Abdullah said, adding that if the situation continued to be like this they might have to wind up the decades-old trade.
Paper-machie, a unique Kashmiri craft, involves the use of paper pulp for creating beautiful painted artefacts. From intricately drawn kingfishers to maple leaves and other motifs, the designs of ‘Arabesque’, ‘yarkand’ and ‘hazara’ still elicit amazement from buyers locally and outside. These products are made by artisans who have been in this work since decades. But now due to the continuous shutdown and strain on the Kashmir economy, it has become hard for the businesses to survive. The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce has said since August the region has suffered Rs 17,000 crore of losses. Like the retailers, the current situation has left thousands of artisans without work.
“If we would get 100 orders, we would place 200 new orders with the artisans, but as we have no work, they too are left without any work,” Abdullah added.(TNS)