Kashmir’s own Wagoo dying it ‘unnatural’ death

Sultan Mohalla in Saida Kadal was once bustling business both in terms of marketing and making of Wagoos

Mohammad Jazib/Srinagar
January 14, 2018 TOP STORIES 442 Views
Kashmir’s own Wagoo dying it ‘unnatural’ death

Kashmiri Wagoo, a kind of floor mat which once had its place in every Kashmiri house whether summers or harsh winters alike.
Wagoo was famous in both rural and urban areas as it was used as matting on the clay floors of Kashmiri homes. It provided nice warmth to the Kashmiri people in the harsh winters of Kashmir which usually sees a dip in the temperature, up to -9 degrees centigrade, when the winter is at its peak.
Wagoo is made from straws known as ‘pe’tczh’, in the local language, which is generally obtained from lakes. Wagoo was generally made in the areas such as Saida kadal and the areas adjoining Dal Lake and Anchaar Lake and was famous among the natives for being ‘cheap and reliable.’
Sultan Mohalla in Saida Kadal was once bustling business both in terms of marketing and making of Wagoos. But now most of its residents from the Sultan Mohalla in this business up until the thermal foam was introduced.
A local shopkeeper says with a sigh of gloom on his face: “Almost everyone in this area has left the business as of now”.
Further he adds, “The mat makers left the business one by one after its demand saw a gradual decline”.
Wagoo making was a reliable business for the locals as it gave them a good income to support their family.
After visiting the Mohalla, almost, the residents say, that they have left the business. On being asked whether there is anyone who still makes the ‘Wagoo’, the only name that comes on their mouth is “Jaana”.
A lady in her late 40’s is introduced as Jaana and she has been making these mats from an age she can’t remember.
She is the only woman or one can say the only mat maker left in the whole area. “I have been making Waoo for a very long time” she says and has no mood to leave the work she knows the best.
Women in this area have never gone out for work and most of them weaved the mats at home, while the men were involved in carpet weaving. Her husband, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, says, “Women usually preferred to stay indoors and make these mats so that they run the house shoulder to shoulder with the men”.
Mohammad Sultan Bhat (65), a Wagoo weaver himself says, “After 2010 our business was on a gradual decline with most of the people were preferring thermals over Wagoo”. Weavers used to work for the whole year because of the demand earlier, but after 2010 they mostly work in the summers.
Mohammad Sultan also adds that since the thermal foams have been introduced in Kashmir, the orders they received have seen a drastic decline.
“We used to get 10 to 20 orders for a week and now hardly anybody wants them”, he says.
Ghulam Nabi who is in his late sixties says, “I used to make and sell Wagoo on daily basis myself, but after a decline in its demand, I stopped selling them as I had to support a family of six”.
Most of the weavers in the locality have left weaving Wagoo as their work involved hand to mouth income.
“Out of 200 households currently residing in the Sultan Mohalla 150 households were involved in the business, but with the introduction of thermals the business saw a downfall”, says the one of the shopkeeper, Firdous Ahmad. “Now, only one lady makes these mat in the whole area”, he added
Even though the demand has decreased Janna still gets orders from people and recently a lady from Rajbagh area had ordered about 11 Wagu for office use.
“Wagoo can’t be made in different designs still it gives different feeling in the room”, Jaana says.
She says that Wagoo making is family business and she won’t be leaving it anytime soon. “It’s our culture and it’s our heritage and there is no question of leaving it” says Jaana.
Wagoo has two types the Farmaesh Wagu, which can be used on both sides, is a bit costly than the Bazaer. Farmaesh Wagu doesn’t allow water to peep through gaps and has better durability than the other type.
The maximum length of the Wagu is 9ft while width stands at 4ft. The largest Farmaesh Wagoo cost around Rs 600 while the largest Bazaer costs around Rs 400.

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