As modernization and affluence has gripped every precinct of society, a nonagenarian in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district is keeping the traditional art of making grass slippers (pulhor) alive.
Hailing from Kehnusa area of Bandipora, Abdul Samad, 90, has been making slippers of paddy straw, wearing of which was once a tradition in Kashmir valley.
Speaking to Rising Kashmir, Samad said the slippers made up of paddy straw was known as “pulhor” and was used by the people of Kashmir widely a few decades ago.
“In early twentieth century upto few decades ago hardly anyone could afford to buy or use leather footwear due to poverty and scant availability of avenues. People then used grass-made sandals or slippers as the only choice to walk or to venture outside”, Abdul Samad said.
He said when people had limited means to earn money; grass slipper was the only option for them. “However as the economic condition and lifestyle of people changed, there are almost negligible customers to buy these grass sandals today.”
The 90-year-old, who learned the skill of making grass sandals from his father, opted it as a source of livelihood. “I was associated with making grass sandals at the age of 40, when my father taught me the skill of this craft,” he said.
“My aim is to keep this art alive and I am committed to it so that our young generation can be aware of old Kashmir when people could not afford costly leather shoes and slippers”, he added.
However, he said it has become difficult to survive on this art owing to the disinterest of people to buy these slippers.
“Earlier it used to be sufficient for me to feed my family through this trade, however in present times it has become very difficult to make ends meet.”
Recollecting the past when these grass slippers was a tradition, Abdul Samad said these footwear were environmentally and skin-friendly as every household was not only using them but many people were associated with this craft and earned enough to manage their day-to-day affairs.
“I want to teach this art to my children but being fond of modernization, they are not ready to learn it”, he said and added, “I think this art will die with me”.