Many boutiques run by women have come up in Srinagar. The business gives them the flexibility to be their own bosses and earn a decent living. Syed Asma reports
A family of five – a couple and their three daughters – in downtown Srinagar are busy working in their modest single storey house. All of them are skilled in one or another craft. The father has been doing hook embroidery for 40 years while his wife used to spins the wheel and do embroidery on shawls until her health failed her.
The couple did not want to pass any of their crafts to their children as the returns were very small compared to the labour put in by the artisans. However, their daughters, who would see them slog throughout the day, wanted to lend some help. The elder one, Sakeena, was too eager to chip in with some help.
“I quit studies in 10th class. I wanted to earn but I knew I was not enough qualified for a job. Then I thought of learning tailoring,” says Sakeena. It was in year 2000.
One of their neighbours, who knew tailoring took Sakeena as an apprentice. “She (teacher) was quite aware about our financial condition, so she taught me for free,” says Sakeena.
As Sakeena learned the craft and started working, her sisters joined her. “I started with tailoring only but when my sister joined me, who was then in college, she came up with the idea of establishing a boutique, where we could sell the cloth, stitched dresses besides continue with tailoring,” Sakeena adds.
Most of the boutiques in the valley are run by women. “A lot of boutiques have come up in Srinagar as it is a very comfortable business for a girl where she has minimal dealings with men-folk and earns handsomely as well,” says Sakeena.
The three sisters were not comfortable working outside their home so they set up the boutique in their home.
Sakeena is getting married in coming months but her sisters want to continue the business. Her sisters are going to continue with it as this earns them good. “As all of us are aware about the little earnings of our father, so we have to continue with this boutique business because it is giving us good money,” says Shafiqa, Sakeena’s younger sisters.
However, many of the women running boutiques in Srinagar are not into the business for monetary reasons. Ulfat Khan, is an engineer and is married to a businessman. She runs a boutique at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
“I hate being an employee of a ‘boss’. I wanted to do something of my own which would keep me busy,” says Ulfat.
Ulfat has been in this business for last five years. “Boredom is the only reason to get me in this business. Frankly, my husband still pays my expenses. I do not take anything from this business. It is just to keep me busy,” says Ulfat.
She gets stocks from Dubai, Pakistan, Dehli, Kolkata and many other places. “I started with Delhi and Kolkata as I had some contacts there, then steadily contacts increased. More and more people started getting associated as I moved on,” she adds, “You just have to start then God guides you himself but getting started needs a lot of courage”.
Ulfat credits her husband for being able to start the business. “I would not have been able to do it without him. He inspired me to do it and supported me all through, be it, successes and failure,” says Ulfat.
Parveen Masood, who runs a boutique at Jawahar Nagar, echoes same views. “If my husband has not been there, I would not have been doing this and continued for so long,” she said.
Parveen’s husband is a government teacher. They have two daughters. She says rejected government jobs because she was not able to take a good care of her children.
“If I had opted for a job I had to attend the office from 9 to 4. But I was not comfortable in doing that because my kids were too young and I had to look after my family too. I could not shy away from my responsibilities”.
Parveen chose to open a boutique when it was a new concept in Kashmir. “When I chose it, it was a totally a new concept and people gave me a good response because I had surveyed the whole market and got things from outside which were not available in our local market,” says Parveen.
These women who have established their own little business are quite optimistic and confident not only for themselves but also for the whole women-folk. “Women can achieve anything. She can touch the skies provided she gets the space and support for doing that. Family plays a major role in making a woman successful,” says Parveen.