Years after he picked the special carpentry skill, he lost his eyesight completely. This led Ghulam Qadir to accept the challenge and he started managing his work for all these years, flawlessly, reports Waseem Dar
It is early afternoon and the machines are blaring at their peak in Industrial Estate Anantnag. At the end of Lane 5 is Ghulam Qadir Kharaati’s austere shop where he is busy slicing poplar clefts on a band-saw.
Qadir is unmoved by the arrival of visitors and the greetings turn dim in the din of running machines. Finally, some loud-talking leads him to notice the visitors. Qadir turns off the machine finally and now everything is audible.
Qadir, 55, was a class ninth standard student when his father noticed his odd way of keeping his books and other things close to his eyes. He remembers his father taking him to Dr Harbachan Singh in 1980, who diagnosed him with vision issues and suggested him to give up studies for some business.
“I could neither see smaller letters clearly nor was I able to read properly,” Qadir said. “Even though I was fond of many things academic, I had to leave my school and took over my father’s wood-carving shop at Lal Chowk Anantnag.”
For the next three years, Qadir worked to pick up the skill. No sooner did he emerge into sort of an artist his father was, their shop went up in flames. It was during those days that his father also passed away. Qadir remained dependent on others for many years. The main business of his father was to make wooden toys for children.
For all the years of his sophisticated carpentry, he lives with the experiences and the memories of his normal days. Recollecting the names of some known Indian film directors like Prakash Mehra and N N Sippy, Qadir talks about his youthful liking for movies and his frequent visits to different cinemas in Anantnag and Srinagar. Qadir said he and his friends, would bunk classes and slip into the local Ashajipora cinema and watch Bollywood super-hits for hours together.
“I once dreamt of being with Amitabh Bachchan in a huge gathering, Qadir said in a style as if it was true. “He called me in front of all and asked me to sing something I liked. I sung Khai ke paan bana raswala… from his movie Don.”
Speaking is a die-hard Amitabh fan. “Even though I am no longer able to watch him, I still listen to the songs from his movies and the scenes appear before my eyes from my memories,” Qadir said. “I am a great fan of him. I wish to meet him once. Can you make that happen?”
Hailing from Sarnal Gulshanabad Anantnag, Ghulam Qadir Kharaati was married in his early age. When ophthalmologists declared his last traces of eyesight lost, he already had fathered three daughters and a son.
The loss of eyesight did not mean giving up his livelihood. He was literally burdened by the responsibilities. Gradually, he started with the machine his father had procured earlier and learned the new art of working with it to make wooden posts used in home railings. He never stopped. The last time he had to give it a break was when he suffered a sudden heart attack and had to get a pacemaker implanted with help from the local Auqaf committee.
When he is at work nobody can tell that Qadir lacks eyesight. He holds the chisel and other tools like an artist and feels the outcome of his work on the surface of the small logs of wood he works on.
Before a particular piece is put aside as declared fit for sale, it has to undergo a final trial. It is the gentle caressing by Qadir’s hands by which he determines the coarseness of its surface and the depth of its cuts and grooves.
Living with his wife and two of his children, Qadir earns a meagre amount from his small workshop to feed his family. Counting the different expenses he spends his earnings on, he asks if something can be done that will exempt his shop from paying the electricity bill.
“I saw many ups and downs in my life. Except for when I suffered that heart attack, I have never relied on peoples’ help. Allah never let me down,” Qadir said.
Qadir lives far away from his workplace so his son drops him at his workshop daily and picks him up later in the evening. “I get my lunch with me and whatever is required in the shop,” Qadir said. “It is a daily routine now for lot many years.” Over the years he has memorised which tool is where and he faces no problems. He switches the power off and on, himself. Qadir believes that being blind does not mean being disabled. He lives his life as a lifelong challenge to prove that life is worth living no matter what.