Yarns Of Time And Fear

In Karachi’s Benaras Colony, the tradition of weaving brought by migrants from India during Partition, is getting lost in the vagaries of time 

4/1/2017 2:20:51 AM
written By : Reema Abbasi Print

These taut quarters of Benaras Colony provide an immediate, stinging taste of Karachi’s duality. Life here represents an intricate web of shine and shadows much like their fabled Benarasi weaves.

Interestingly, time is the central element that separates the culture and ways of this vast settlement from the world that encircles it. Its people, with faraway gazes, still speak of the charms of the Ganges and Benaras; their lores, cuisine and customs have seeped into generations. Hence, this is easily one of the more culturally assured and articulate pockets of the metropolis.

As tradition remains scattered all over, fear lurks in most hearts. Shopkeepers and craftsmen betray constant suspicion; one shop owner is worried about his neighbour. “All eight members of the family are not here today. I hope there hasn’t been a murder or burglary.” 

This district echoes with dread; it has watched vehicles and buildings turn into plumes of smoke, and lives lost to brutal conflict that spilt over from Katti Pahari and the nearby Orangi Ijtimagah.

And then we meet Ameer Hamza, 39, who has spent 15 years in the family craft of Benarasi looms, to emerge as one of the foremost pattern-makers of today.

“I went to Benaras to learn this art from Ustad Badruddin there. Until 1998, this was manual work, now technology has lent it speed but not perfection. We don’t have expensive software yet manage better work,” he says with a proud spread of his fine sketches. 

Hamza, a bit of a philosopher at heart, also recalls the time when he would volunteer to impart his knowledge for free and was perpetually hard up. “Feudals don’t have to come with turbans or moustaches; it is a state of mind. Now, every stroke has a price and I have a name, income and respect. It takes me 15 to 20 days to complete a pattern.” 

A father of three, he sits with a laptop on the floor of a small, dingy room, flanked by his crutches and a protégé, narrating his tale. “I found livelihood and love in Benaras. My wife was a kaamdani expert there and we married in 2000 but I am glad that we are here as their poverty is frightening.”

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