Sitting across a young twenty-something Pashmina/ Cashmere weaver in Kashmir in the summer of 2011, India (one of the world’s most dangerous and longest running conflict zone, since six decades), discussing life in Kashmir over a cup of hot Kahwa (spiced local green tea), he states in a very matter-of-fact manner without a speck of hesitation – ‘It pays better to be a terrorist than to be an artisan on this loom’.
I felt like I had been the unaware pawn, who had haggled over every shawl (bargaining was half the pleasure of shopping anyway!), knowing very well that the price would not buy a week’s ration and the shawl would have taken six weeks to make, at the least. My guilt, naivety and the die-hard optimist in me asked him ‘how is it that weaving the finest wool in the world – Pashmina, was not more lucrative than killing one’s conscience and fellow humans?
‘Well, you always have cheaper machine made pashmina from neighbouring countries, very few truly care enough about the art or the artisans?’ he replied.
The first jolt to my obliviousness and the restlessness had been triggered, which led me to launch Protsaah’s ‘Gulmarg Collection’. Socially responsible, authentic, handcrafted Pashmina/ Cashmere scarves sourced ethically from the Srinagar Valley in Kashmir, its birthplace.