EXCEPTIONAL CARVER
Kashmir Life|March 28, 2021
One of Srinagar’s oldest craftsmen, Ghulam Nabi Dar’s designs on the wood remain unmatched for their intricacy and detail, reports Khalid Bashir Gura
Khalid Bashir Gura

In one of the cramped alleys of the downtown Srinagar, the city of Kashmir, a man in his late sixties drops chisel as he sees to shake hands with this reporter.

“I am not scared of the virus,” says Ghulam Nabi Dar, 68. His room where he does walnut woodcarving smells of wood. The wood dust covers everything: a red coloured small radio, wooden planks, an old tin trunk in the corner and stacks of paper with imprinted designs.

“I am growing old but passion keeps me going,” he said while putting down his tools on a plank.

According to Dar, he has taught the skills of this craft to many in his neighbourhood, family and friends because he himself had to struggle for years for it.

DROP OUT

When Dar was six years old he was admitted to a private school in his neighbourhood. But soon his father couldn’t afford the expenses and Dar had to drop out when he was just 10.

“Most of the time I was without fees, uniform and books. Education became unaffordable,” he said.

To help the family come out of its financial crisis, Dar’s maternal uncle took him to a local wood carving artisan Abdul Razzaq Wangnoo. Dar along with his younger brother started working for him. He was not paid for two years while learning the craft and doing menial tasks. In the following three years, he was paid two and a half rupees.

Dar vividly remembers his father words insisting, his employer to teach his both sons effectively even if he pays less to them.

AN ARTISTIC URGE

To further develop his skills and earn more, he started working with his neighbourhood wood carving artisan, Abdul Aziz Bhat. Bhat used to get orders from Subla & Company, a reputed handicraft company with a huge customer base.

He came across work of different artists at the Subla’s workshop and one day overwhelmed by curiosity he managed to sneak into a room in which the best walnut woodcarvings were kept. He was fascinated by their intricate designs.

Days later, while he was used to making furtive journeys to the room, the owner thought he was going there with the intention to steal something. “I told him the truth and why I came to the room,” he recalled.

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