Grüezi, I am Saloni Duggal Shrestha, founder and storyteller. I love design, art and people. My vagabond mind has taken me through many winding alleys to enchanting lands and given me a thousand stories.
The story of a young Kashmiri weaver in India will stay with me forever. This encounter was the deeply moving moment that made me found the social enterprise Protsaah.
For six decades, the Kashmir region of India has been one of the most dangerous areas in the world. The conflict on the ground has earned the dubious world record of being among the longest-running.
"Financially, it pays more to be a terrorist than an artisan at this loom"
The young weaver who uttered this momentous sentence so dryly and matter-of-factly was perhaps in his mid-twenties. Over a cup of hot kahwa - a spiced green tea typical of the region - we had been talking about life in Kashmir.
That hurt! Not even an hour before, I had haggled unsuspectingly for each scarf. It was less about the price: for me, haggling was half the fun of shopping! And yet I knew that the negotiated price would not even be enough for a week's ration of food, and the production of the scarf
had lasted at least six weeks. My guilt and naiveté rushed hot and cold over my skin. It was only after what felt like an eternity that the inveterate optimist in me spoke up. There had to be a way to help this young man - and all the other people in similar situations.
But first I had to understand the inconceivable:
How could it be that weaving pashmina - the most precious wool in the world - was not more lucrative than killing his conscience and his fellow human beings?
He had a sobering answer to that, too. "Well, there is always cheaper, machine-made pashminan from neighboring countries. Who cares about the art of crafting them or the people who make them?"
In that moment, Protsaah's "Gulmarg" collection was born: socially responsible, authentic, handmade pashmina/cashmere shawls - ethically made in her birthplace in the Srinagar Valley.