A few strings of straw woven to make slippers were common footwear, not so long ago. Waseem Ahad reports.

An old photograph showing potters carrying their manufacture. They are wearing the footwear woven locally with paddy straw

Whenever Mohammad Akbar Pala, 70, would leave for the forests to collect firewood near his home in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, he would put on a pulhoer (slippers made of straw-rope). But that was 35 years ago. Now pulhoer is barely visible anywhere in the Valley.

Pala says, “Those were the days of poverty. People would usually walk bare feet and pulhoer was the easy-to-make shoes available at home. In jungles it would save feet from thorny bushes and pebbles”.

Pulhoer was made of straw rope with a compact sole and a few straps to tie these to the feet. The scratchy strings of pulhoer would leave marks on the feet. “During rains water would seep through the pores, leaving the pulhoer unusable,” says Pala.

The financial prosperity and availability of shoes and sandals heralded the demise of the traditional pulhoer. “When you have better choices available then why do you need to talk about old things,” says Abdul Khaliq, of Muqam Baramulla.

However, in some poor remote villages, some people still use it. Eighty-five-year-old Ghulam Mohammad rarely ventures out of his home but whenever he does, he wears a pulhoer. “I have used pulhoer throughout my life and I like it.”


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