A day in September, last year, walking on the embankments of paddy fields, Urooj Jan, 22, pursuing Bachelors in Home Science from Government Degree College, Anantnag, found a clay pot filled with water. While returning home, she thought of using her designing skills that she had mastered since childhood—with just a thought—make it beautiful.
She had big dreams but her world was small. In December 2018, she went to the potter shop near her residence in Anantnag, south Kashmir, and brought a few more clay items. Contemplating at home for the next few days got the best. “I started with coloring items like Samawar, Tumbakhnaer, pots, and chillam,” said Ms. Jan. “Slowly, I started decorating these things to make them more attractive.”
Her first customer, and critic, was her family—of her first product, a decorated Samawar. As she remembers, the first reaction she got was, “Did you design it?”. Their raised eyebrows gave her the confidence and appreciation that she wanted.
When she went to the potter the second time, he asked out of curiosity, “What do you do with them? No one buys them anymore.” His questions and other factors pulled her down, but lifting herself up, she decided to work harder. “I thought I will use my skills to create a market for such products—again,” Ms. Jan said.
Setting apart her studies and passion, she made her way out and started preparing for her masters as well—though, the work never halted.
The blooming internet, a boon, infused a new life, and hope, in Ms. Jan. Taking to social media, she started an Instagram account named, Qatar in December 2018. Now, with Qatar, which literally means broken part of clay pot in the Kashmiri language, by her side, her aim is to save the dying tradition. Being an optimist, she believes that using new-age methods can play a role in saving fading tradition.
At Qatar, she showcases her decorated artwork, including traditional Kashmiri items like Samawar, Tumbakhnaer, pots, and chillam.
Grateful to the people, and her customers, she said, “I am highly satisfied with being able to contribute to my culture and keeping this art alive.” Right now, aside from her Masters in Clinical Biology from the University of Kashmir, she is earning a profit of around seven-thousand rupees a month.
These days, when Ms. Jan is not attending her classes, she finishes her orders. She is backed by her father, Masood Jan, a contractor by profession, who also gives her company sometimes.
Though, the ban on the boon is creating troubles for Ms. Jan. “Long internet bans in the Valley, especially in south Kashmir is affecting business,” she said. “During bans, we don’t receive orders.”
Recently, she also registered her work at ITCI.com, an online collaborative platform to sell products around the globe. Being actively anxious, she wishes for her studies to end quicker, aiming to give all her time to work. “When I don’t work, I feel restless,” she said. “This satisfies my soul and gives a reason for my existence.”
This story originally appeared in the 1-7 July 2019 print issue of The Kashmir Walla.