SRINAGAR, June 21: At a time when changing lifestyles are being blamed for declining tolerance levels, a Kashmiri woman has taken it upon herself to remind the youth of a simple yet resilient life which their ancestors lived.
At ‘Meeras Mahal’ or Heritage palace in a shopping mall in Srinagar, Ateeqa Bano, 70, proudly displays her collection of centuries-old things that were used by common Kashmiris, and also those which were used before the valley had any idea about a modern world that had been born.
Khraaw (wooden sandals), Pulhor (shoes made of hay) and a skull cap made of straw, all more than a hundred years old, are on display besides scores of other things.
Apart from an understanding of Kashmir’s past, Bano says, the artefacts will provide help and boost the confidence of youth who are facing a tough life in the modern world.
“These things like the Pulhor (grass shoes) will teach them how people would manage to survive even in the worst times. This will teach them that they bear a legacy of those people who carried on despite pressures and did not succumb,” she says.
Bano had planned to showcase her collection for the elders of the valley so that they could see things that they had heard of or even some of them had used in their childhood. However, she says, it is the response of the youngsters which took her by surprise.
“I wanted to buy plastic flower pots for my garden. But after coming here I am thinking of buying a willow pot. It will give the real Kashmiri look to my house,” says a doctor, Rehana Maqbool.
But Ateeqa Bano who runs Majlissun Nisa-an umbrella organisation of calligraphy schools, computer institutes and a school for orphans- is not against modernisation. Both-Kashmir’s cultural art and change- have to be in tandem, she says.
“If we don’t progress, then will be like stale waters. But in this mad race for modern styles, our youth should know and preserve their rich heritage and should be proud of it also.”
Meeras Mahal, Bano says, mirrors the creativity and the aesthetic tastes of Kashmiris. Among display are intricately carved wooden shoes and more than seventeen types of pens besides a beautifully designed Pikdaan (a basin for spitting).
“What these things tell us is that we have been very creative and had a taste for things. It’s not that we were poor and didn’t care about aesthetics,” she says.
Bano points out to a set of five different caps in a corner of the room. There is a zari-cap (designed with golden thread) and also a cap woven out of rice grass.
“They help us understand that the rich and the poor of our society managed their need in their own way. I think the children need to learn this also,” she says.
(The author is a trainee with the Hindustan Times)