The end of lockdown brought some relief for Kashmir’s traditional copper utensil makers, renowned for their immaculate craftsmanship, but their industry is under threat and their earnings low.
Copperware, locally known as “Traam”, is deep-rooted in Kashmiri culture and is famous for intricate calligraphic engraving that requires extensive time and labour.
Feeling the ever-increasing competition from modern gadgets and home appliances, artisans and sellers were dealt a severe jolt last year by a months-long lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The lockdown troubled us; we didn’t get to do any work. There is a slowdown in the market,” said a shopkeeper, Mushtaq Ahmed, in downtown Srinagar.
Artisans, mainly based in the old quarters of Indian-administered Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar, engrave the traditional samovar used for boiling water, cutlery sets and other utensils considered a part of every Kashmiri family’s heirlooms.
However, their numbers are dwindling as they turn to other ventures to make ends meet.
Artisan Gurmohammad Sheikh said copper had become very expensive while their profits had remained the same.
“We have been labouring for the past 40 years but there has been barely any change in our compensation, it’s almost the same as we used to get about 20 years back,” he said.
The Muslim-majority Himalayan region is claimed in full by nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan, though each rule only a small part.