GUWAHATI, Nov 26 – When many in Guwahati are still in bed, a few young men with bulky packages on their shoulders start their long and steady walks. Their efforts spread over an entire day, as they visit households seeking to sell garments brought all the way from Kashmir. The annual visit of the intrepid traders has already begun.
The hefty packets contain an assortment of handloom products, along with some machine made garments. But all have roots which can be traced to traditional Kashmiri weaves, designs, motifs passed on from one generation to the next which depict nature, play with patterns, or simply reflect geometric shapes. No wonder, their wares are in demand, especially among the women folk of the city.
Manjul, one of the traders, told this correspondent that shawls are always in high demand, and stoles and scarves have become popular in recent times. Many customers here are keen to buy the traditional handmade attire worn by women of Kashmir. Pashmina, although much more expensive, has also appeared as a material that has a ready market in Guwahati.
Prices of the different garments vary according to the nature of the fabric, and the hours of laborious work which have gone into its embellishment. Usually, the prices start at around Rs 300 and can reach Rs 20,000 or more, the trader said. Pre-order enables them to bring in more expensive items.
All the garments can be worn during the winters in Guwahati, and hence their arrival in autumn every year. This year, however, their entry into Assam was delayed by Eid festivities when people of Kashmir are keen to be with their families.
Customers appreciate the variety of attires and accessories the traders bring to their doorsteps, but there is something more that makes their visits special. “They are invariably courteous, and they have the knack to build lasting ties with customers,” said Sushmita, a city resident. The traders share stories about home, and at times make long distance calls when they are in Kashmir to sustain the ties over time.
Manzoor Ahmed Wani who comes from Khayar in Anant Nag District reveals that groups of traders after putting their wares on trucks begin their journey to Guwahati and other parts of Assam by train. Each group may have invested Rs 10 lakh or above in purchasing their goods from different suppliers. They will carry out their trade till the mid or last part of February before making the return journey.
“The profit we make is not bad, but the friendship that grows with the people here is perhaps more satisfying,” said the trader who is currently on his fourteenth visit to Assam. This year, Wani has brought with him a much younger relative to help him. “I am sure he too will come to love the place!” Wani quipped.