Blind Family from Kashmir Struggles to Save Bedding Business
Ghulam Nabi and Mohammad Hussain, two visually impaired brothers from Kashmir, are struggling to make ends meet after their bedding business failed to meet modern demands.
This week Ghulam Nabi, a resident of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, received a phone call he had been dreading for some time. Nabi's youngest son's school had requested his presence. It had been six months since Nabi had paid the school fee - twelve hundred Indian rupees, or about 15 US dollars.
"Work doesn't come easy these days. The school was understanding. They gave me a few more days to arrange the money," Nabi told Sputnik India. Nabi is a small businessman. Together with his brother Mohammad Hussain, he sells home-made bed linen. But the duo are no ordinary businessmen.
The brothers have been visually impaired since childhood. Nabi and Hussain have six other brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, they are not the only members of their family with physical disabilities. One of their sisters is blind and mentally handicapped. The brothers have had to make sure they survive and try to lead as normal a life as possible.
As children, their father realised the need to teach his disabled children skills that would help them earn a living. He trained them to make traditional Kashmiri bedding and to navigate the local markets
to sell their products.
"When I was young, one day my father asked me to accompany him to the market with the bedding we used to make. First he held my hand and then he told me to go ahead and try to walk without help. My father walked behind me, guiding my steps and correcting me if I took a wrong turn. He wanted me to learn how to navigate the market so that I could sell on my own," Ghulam Nabi shared.
For nearly three decades, the duo managed to earn a living. They found wives, had children and built small homes. It was a difficult life for them, but they were happy with what they had achieved. But the last few years have been hard.
Although Nabi and his brother aren't particularly inclined towards politics, they firmly believe that their current circumstances can be attributed to politics and ongoing events.
The lockdown in 2019 after the Indian government revoked Kashmir's autonomy, the corona virus and the introduction of non-local bedding products in Kashmir are reasons the brothers cite for the loss of business.
“A lot of non-local bedding sellers have come to Kashmir after Article 370 was revoked. Demand for our products has gone down. We would usually get 10000 to 12000 rupees (120 USD to 150 USD). Now we barely get calls to order our product,” Nabi told Sputnik India.
His brother, Mohammad Hussain, expressed similar concerns. "We used to get money under government schemes for the blind. The money used to come to our house. Now we have to go to the bank and they haven't released the money for months," he said.
"With the arrival of modern and fashionable bedding in Kashmiri markets, the situation has become grim. There was a time when I was the sole breadwinner of the house. Despite my disability. Now my wife has to wash utensils for other households," said Nabi.