The Kashmir Diaries
Musings on Kashmir, Shawl Wallah, and ethical industry development in the region.
sep 2019 - Kashmir.
Heartbreakingly and breathtakingly beautiful.
Heartbreaking and breathtaking.
It seems as though you can’t throw a stick these days and not hit a humanitarian crisis. Or three.
it also seems the throw, stick and plight are all quite promptly forgotten.
Perhaps I shouldn’t start this note with such negativity.
Or perhaps, in support of the people of Kashmir, I should.
Oft we hear and read and see the plight of Kashmir, and the struggles of a people at once natives and foreigners in their land. We hear less of the Kashmiris, a majority Muslim population living within a politically charged and agressively policed homeland.
A changing global climate provides flood waters. An insecure political climate born of religious separation and segregation provides militaristic abuse and mistrust. Nuclear posturing and arrogant politicians ensure ever changing and ever disputed borders surrounding this one-off cradle of life.
I’ve been careful to keep Shawl Wallah politically neutral in its messaging for a number of reasons, not least of which my own safety when I visit Kashmir. However, it’s hard to stay silent when I personally champion human rights and equal rights. I’ve built a life and career around doing the right thing, being a voice for the marginalised, and using my inherent privilege to try and effect change.
Hell, that’s what Shawl Wallah was born out of.
However, while I want to address the large papier mache elephant in the room, I don’t want to dwell on it. The elephant is here to stay, at least for the moment. Let’s address it, not ignore it, and then acknowledge it as we move forward.
My goal in writing about Kashmir is to share a unique (and perhaps relatable) view on regional-specific and industry-specific issues those of us face when trying to connect ethically handmade products with global commerce. Some days I will focus more on the frustration and anger and risks of sourcing from such a volatile region, and some days I will focus on the wins, learnings, and ideas for the brand and for social enterprise.
I’d like this to be a series on Kashmir, and more specifically Shawl Wallah’s journey into the small but focused brand it is today. The two are inextricably linked, as the product Shawl Wallah sells is born of craft, born of history, born of struggle and born of Kashmir.
When one thrives, so does the other. When one flounders, so too does the other.
This is a tad pretentious, as currently I don’t assume a floundering Shawl Wallah will hurt Kashmir. However, my consistent goal with the brand is to grow it into somewhat of a changemaker for Kashmir. My vision for Shawl Wallah has always been to help raise the tide for all boats dealing in ethically produced products from Kashmir.
A people and a region that, when heard and supported, takes some of that stolen breath and breathes it back into the communities and industries of Kashmir.