"How did your dad get the Pokhara shop?" I asked. Sumi drew a breath.
Born During the Kashmir Insurgency
My dad, he used to do lots of work. He used to work as a trekking guide, he used to give shikara rides, he used to do labour work. And he used to work with carpets also, and farming - he has done lots of things.
But during the 90s, the situation in Kashmir became worse, so my dad decided to move out because there were no tourists coming. So he didn't have any work as a guide. And a second thing, as a carpet weaver, he also didn't have a lot of work, because the situation was getting really bad in Kashmir at the time.
Of course, Kashmir had always been contested territory between India and Pakistan, ever since the Partition of India at the end of British colonial rule in the region. But the situation deteriorated in the 1990s, when events came to a head during the Kashmir Insurgency.
So, Mr. Ghulam had a young family during this deeply dangerous time.
A difficult decision is made
My dad had to think about going out, or doing something else, so that we can leave. His family - me and my brother, and my mom and him. So he has to think of something. But he didn't have money during that time.
But my mom, she used to do needlework. She was also a weaver. And my mom had saved some thousands, like seven or eight thousand rupees. She gave it to dad and said, ok you can go now.
"He migrated to Nepal?" I asked. Sumi assented.
"How long ago was that?"
It has been like 24, 25 years.
Sumi began calculating aloud. When dad went I was like 4-5 months. And then we went when I was 1-2 years old. So it has been 23, 24 - 25 years.
The founding of a cashmere shop in Nepal
In Nepal, I don't know... I think dad used to teach carpet making. He tried doing a few things in Nepal, and encountered a lot of difficulties, and sometimes he didn't get paid. He used to sell carpets, and his money was stuck in Nepal...
Sumi gathered her thoughts and continued.
There was no work in Kashmir, so he thought, doing a business in Nepal is a good plan. And he started his own shop. But when he started his shop he didn't have enough money. So one of his Nepali friends helped him a lot - and he started a business.
Indeed, was there ever a business that did not owe its first breaths of life to the love of good friends?
He didn't have a lot of stuff in his shop during that time. He had only a few wall hangings, a few carpets, really just a few scarves. The customers were not that much - they were... fine.
But slowly, he started getting profit, and he started bringing in more things. Slowly, slowly - he expanded, and... there was a beautiful shop!
After a few years, me and my brother and my mom, we also moved to Nepal. And that was when everything started.
And 25 years later, another one - online.
I smiled. Why, apart from the desperate migration, it sounded quite familiar after all.
Hopefully, we too will start bringing in more Ethical Cashmere products. And (hopefully not too slowly), there will grow another beautiful shop - online!
~ Nuraini ~
Photo credits: Nur Baiti Hikaru