In Jammu & Kashmir also known as 'Heaven on Earth', a group of youngsters who call themselves Waruk, are working with the state Department of Tourism to help local artisans and craftsmen preserve Kashmiri arts and crafts
Waruk (meaning ‘a page from a book’ in Kashmiri) was informally founded way back in 2010 by Taha Mughal, an architect by profession. However, it got its formal name only in 2017. Waruk started like many of those public organisations driven from a bitter personal experience. The founder, a victim of physical abuse, broken family and child bullying was understandably reticent and introvert, so art and poetry proved to be the only possible catharsis in his personal survival story.
This experience, evolution and strategy laid the foundation of Waruk that started with individual contributions of the founder in the same school where he was bullied and harassed. As time passed by, friends started to appreciate the cause and gradually as Mughal puts it, “log judtey gaye, karwaan badhta gaya’ ( people gradually joined the cause and it all became a movement). The core team of Waruk, now consisting of 10 young people, provides a space for self-expression and healing through creative arts in our by-and-large conservative society that still considers many important issues a taboo.”
Working with tourism
Waruk’s collaboration with department of tourism in J&K started in 2016 during a state level art exhibition as a part of annual Gulmarg snow carnival. Over time, the department has collaborated numerous times in a lot of events, activities and workshops that promote the culture, heritage and traditions of Kashmir through the media of creative arts including writing, poetry, photography, painting etc.
Mughal adds, “The department as a part of its social responsibility has also many a times facilitated activities that have no direct link with the portfolio of the department. Last year, it sponsored a month long creative writing workshop that was experimentative in terms of the participants that varied from seven year olds to 71 year olds. We thought to help old men become children again while infusing some of adult wisdom in the children. It was with the financial aid of the department that we could pay some humble honorarium to at least 10 different experts from ten different states of India including people associated with film making and Bollywood. This year the tourism department also helped us in sponsoring the screening event of a documentary film ‘The poet of silence’ on Gyanpeeth awardee Rehman Rahi directed by Bilal a Jan. Waruk played the role of event management for the same.”
As an organisation striving to promote creative arts among the youth in the Valley, Waruk conducts activities that include:
* Capacity building workshops including language trainings, oratory, soft-skill and interpersonal skill workshops.
* Self-expression workshops through creative writing, special crash courses on short-story writing, painting and photography workshops/exhibitions etc.
* Public literary reading sessions, intellectual discourses and discussions.
* Personality development workshops for underprivileged students from rural areas and orphanages.
* Promotion of arts and crafts of Kashmir through live demonstrations, exhibitions and sale counters.
* Specially designed workshops to help victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse express their pain through different creative arts.
About funding, Mughal informs, “Waruk is extremely privileged and lucky to have found friends and family members who have never asked any money for their own pockets. This not only means that they contribute charitably as a volunteer and a resource person; but also the fact that they help fund the projects. Waruk seems to us personally a self-driven inspiration where a part of our individual earnings go into the functioning. However, this also throws up many challenges and burdens to us at individual levels and certainly restricts our functioning.”
Since last year, with the help of the department of tourism, Waruk has been able to generate some resources. “The fact is that we are technically so poor that our legal registration formalities as a trust are yet not complete and has until now never been a priority. Realising the on-ground need for the same and help establish transparency for fund transfers, we are thinking for registration now,” says Mughal.
The grassroot level
Waruk has now district coordinators in around seven districts of Kashmir who in turn have a web of around 80 artisans currently. The indirect linkages involve around 200-300 people. Waruk started handicraft promotion on an experimentative basis during the recent TAAI convention at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), Srinagar. Mughal proudly informs, “We generated around `70,000-80,000 for the master artisans during the convention. Raising money means promotion of arts and crafts at ground level. We intend to have a lot of activities in this area this year and have been approached by three government departments already for the same.”
‘Regional identity and universal consciousness’ is the principle Waruk aims to achieve. “Kashmir is unique and it has to become global one day. With Waruk it shall. As of immediate or near future, we want to reach maximum of rural beneficiaries whenever and wherever possible and are currently looking for sponsors for the same,” reiterates Mughal.
And his message/advice to the youth of Kashmir and to the world? “We all humans live under constant conflicts or struggles; and life seems to be an ever rolling baggage of burden to deal with. We Kashmiris have not only to deal with the personal crisis in a madly competition driven world, but also deal with the uncertainty of our own life and ambitions in the political uncertainty of the land. Nobody knows how uncertain life can be as those who live in a conflict, most militarised zone of the world. Our dreams are uncertain as are our ambitions. But this awareness of death can also become the reason of living for all of us. Life is tough and short, and let’s join hands together for the very few hours we have, the best we can! Let’s celebrate life and let’s help each other grow, realising that all of this man standing against another man is a vain, useless and dividing concept. At the end, love is all we want to have. Let’s have it together for as long as we are allowed to live,” sums up Mughal.