Photos: courtesy of Brishbhanu Baruah
Photos: courtesy of Brishbhanu Baruah

Kashmiri shawl wallahs of Guwahati

A Guwahati midwinter in hope and warmth.

On a cold January morning this year, I walked into a building in Islampur – a neighbourhood in Assam's Guwahati that has been home to Kashmiri merchants or shawl wallahs (as they refer themselves) for the past three months. A few were fresh out of bed while others were having their breakfast – rice, daal and vegetables – the heaviest meal of their day. The men immediately scrambled to prepare namkeen chai, a pink concoction of green tea, milk and salt, for their azeez dost, their fond reference to me.

As I settled down with a cup, Hilal Ahmed, one of the thirteen men cohabiting together, sat beside me and proceeded to share his lament on global warming; the stunted growth of walnut trees in his orchard back home in Pahalgam, a town in Jammu and Kashmir; the rapid rise in populations; and the perceived lack of empathy among people.

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Himal Southasian