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Saima Shafi is a civil engineer within the Public Works Department of Jammu and Kashmir however she is best generally known as ‘Kral Koor’, Kashmiri for ‘potter girl’ within the Valley and on-line. She is doing the duty of bringing a centuries-old custom again to fashionable Kashmiri kitchens — use of earthen utensils — thanks to a college in Bengaluru.

The 32-year-old’s journey into pottery was a way to flee melancholy. She cited a quote by Chinese thinker Lao Tzu, ‘We shape clay into a pot but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.’

“That’s where I decided to store my depression,” she mentioned.

Shafi’s fascination with clay goes again to her childhood. “I actually wanted to do something different and since my childhood, I had been fascinated with toys made of clay, so I decided to become a potter,” Shafi, who’s at current posted to a village in South Kashmir, mentioned.

When she launched into this journey, she confronted a number of hurdles. “I realised that one needs to be financially sound to get the modern equipment required for pottery.” This consists of an electrical potter wheel and a gasoline kiln which is used for baking, neither of which is obtainable within the Valley.

She was utterly reliant on e-commerce platforms for sourcing the tools.

“I had to transport it to Kashmir and sometimes you have to bear the loss due to transportation. I had to resurrect the entire inner wall of my kiln after getting refractory bricks and shelves of ceramic tiles from Chennai,” she mentioned. And all of the efforts had been made at a time when Kashmir valley was getting Internet at 2G pace.

And then there was one other subject — utensils constituted of terracotta clay, which is the one type of clay obtainable in Kashmir, shouldn’t be used within the microwave. “However, Haryana has a stoneware clay which is moulded on the potter wheel and the utensils made from it can even be used in microwave ovens,” she mentioned.

As pottery academics will not be widespread within the Valley, Shafi’s seek for one led her to Bengaluru. There she took a crash course within the artwork of moulding clay into numerous shapes, together with conventional Kashmiri utensils used within the kitchen.

“The folks on the institute had been fairly thrilled to know woman from distant Kashmir and that too a civil engineer is inquisitive about pottery. The expertise was superb as I noticed ladies as younger as six to a 70-year-old girl studying the artwork.

“These students were planning to open their studio which meant that these women were not learning pottery as a hobby but also to earn their livelihood and become entrepreneurs in various parts of the country,” she mentioned.

She rues the truth that there isn’t any correct establishment or coaching faculty to maintain the artwork kind alive within the Valley. She hopes to someday arrange her personal institute the place she would information the potter group of Kashmir and recollects late President A P J Abdul Kalam’s phrases “dream is not that which you see while sleeping, it is something that does not let you sleep”.

“The art is dying because of a lack of financial viability. The new generation of potters refuse to take to the wheels because they are unaware of changed and advanced techniques of this art,” she mentioned whereas sitting in her studio situated within the interiors of uptown Batmaloo.

After work and on weekends, Shafi frequents locations inside the Valley that had been identified for pottery a number of a long time in the past. She visits the sparsely distributed native potters to protect their conventional strategies for posterity. Her twin id of an engineer and a potter attracts shocked responses from these artisans.

“All these years, they have been looked down upon. Finding an educated woman engaged in pottery makes them hopeful about their skill slowly getting the respect it deserves,” she mentioned.

Shafi says that whereas it’s the wickerwork that makes the Kashmiri Kangri a shiny and cheerful sight, at its core, it’s an earthen pot.

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