In the shady and degradingly beautiful lanes of Downtown, Srinagar, an old man is gazing from inside his shrinking shop in the backdrop of a falling wall, decorated with heavy ornaments.
“Do you cast stones on silver, uncle?” Apparently, the question didn’t bother his gaze at the street outside. After a few more questions, he replied, “This is a waste. No one buys them.”
Tariq Ahmad, 50, smoking from his packet of Four Square, continuously said, “My father started this shop seventy-years ago.” Mr. Ahmad entered this shop, leaving his studies, to learn the art at the age of ten, fulfilling the absence of his politically active father, Ghulam Hassan Zargar, who was working tirelessly with the then popular leader, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, founder of the National Conference.
He remembers the days when he, as a child, used to sit in front of his father all day, and see him work; bruised hands and scratched fingertips would make him think, “Will I have to follow this profession?”
Due to regular imprisonment, and hard state policies, Mr. Ahmad ailing lost his father in 1997 to a heart attack. Today, his bruised hands reflect how his father would have looked like.
With father’s death, more trouble came for Mr. Ahmad. From sixty-rupees per month to seven-hundred fifty-rupees, and the drift towards seven-thousand five-hundred rupees, he paid it all to the Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board as the shop rent, for a promise to renovate it.
But, as he said, during all rough times, his customers stood by his art—running his house. With time, as machines came in, his customers walked out. During the 90s, a grenade attack in front of his shop created more mess for him, and he had to shut down for six months.
After his wife’s death due to kidney failure in 2013, he is left with two sons—Abid and Hamid, at home. After sitting, mostly idle, in his shop for the day, he looks after his house as well.
Due to the economic hardship at home, his elder son, Abid, quit studies and joined a marketing company. “We are relying on him,” said Mr. Ahmad. While his younger son pursues his B. Com., he awaits Waqf Board to renovate his shop, sometime.
But, not once has Mr. Ahmad thought of shutting down the shop. “This is the only remnant of my father.”
This photo-essay originally appeared in the 1-8 July print issue of The Kashmir Walla.