Economic woes: The unfulfilled dreams of artisans

Wood carver and his brother struggle to earn through Lok Mela.

Younas and his mother are depending on the festival to make money to finance the treated of his brother. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

ISLAMABAD: Muhammad Younas is skilled at what he does. His hand-crafted wooden pieces seem to garner attention at the ongoing Lok Mela (folk festival) but sales are hard to come by.

When a customer bargains over a decoration piece, Younas politely tells him the price cannot be further negotiated. “You do realise the manual labour that went into making this? I have already given you a discount,” he says. However, the unyielding customer puts the piece back and walks away.

Younas, 26, has been supporting his family since he picked up his father’s wood-carving tools in their small makeshift workstation. He has been carving wooden chairs and tables for about a decade.

In his hometown Khushab, the handmade decoration pieces and indigenous furniture are a rarity. But it is hard to make ends meet with the rising inflation. Till recently, Younas could purchase wood for Rs170 per foot but now the same wood is sold at Rs400 per foot. He remains mindful of the fact that good wood should be used to make durable items.

In walking long distances to purchase Sheesham wood, Younas often tends to undermine the discomfort in his polio-riddled legs. So much so, one might not notice his physical disability  by observing his agile mannerism. His mother, Zubaida Bibi has also set up her stall of crochet cloth items. “His strength keeps us going. He does everything on his own and supports the family,” she says with a tinge of pride.

Bibi’s collection boasts of handmade table mats, coasters, napkins and shirt pieces which she makes her herself. Together, the mother and son duo support a family of five. They worry about Younas’s youngest brother who is suffering from an undiagnosed mental condition. Younas has sought help for his brother’s treatment but all in vain. “I am unable to afford the tests required for his diagnosis. The doctors just hand us some medication to keep him calm,” he says.

The family now relies solely on such festivals to earn more. “I approached the Lok Virsa director to convince him to set up my stall. The staff were unwilling as they want to showcase the same people every year,” he says.

Meanwhile, an organiser approaches to hand him a banner, inscribed with his name and work, asking him for Rs250 for its making. Younas rolls his eyes and grudgingly hands over his earning of the day (Rs900). “ I will hopefully earn more in the coming days,” he says with a wistful laugh.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2013.


Ali S | 8 years ago | Reply

A sad reality. People have no qualms giving 5-10 Rs to sketchy beggars but they'll haggle for change when it comes to paying a poor person who's trying to earn his livelihood the right way. These are the people who deserve your money.

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