In the harshest phase of winter during Chilai-Kalan, two young students Ali Mohammad Dar and Zahoor Ahmad Dar sell Kangris (traditional Kashmiri fire pot) from dawn and dusk to support their education.
Ali, 26, is pursuing his law degree from Kashmir University and his younger brother Zahoor is a 12th standard student. Both have taken to selling Kangris in early mornings and evenings, dividing the time in a manner that wouldn’t affect their education.
Ali says he has been selling Kangris for the past 14 years now while his younger brother took up the job four years ago.
“It was my late father’s dream to see me wearing the black suit of a lawyer,” says Ali, who does not have too many regrets over what life has to offer. We usually sell before going to the institutes and after returning from them as well.
“Our father use to sell Kangris and we took it from him. We have four sisters and we want all of them to study.”
Ali and Zahoor lost their father in 2016. Till he was alive, their father looked after the family. His departure put Ali in charge and he says the family has coped since then.
Hailing from Charar-I-Sharief town of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, Ali says his four sisters have been helping him to make Kangris by peeling off the twigs and interweaving them into the shape of a web.
Kangri business, Ali says, was not enough to feed his family after his father’s sudden death but with the help of his sisters, he has been able to make the ends meet now.
“When I return from the College in the evening I resume selling Kangris till late evening,” Ali said while narrating his ordeal.
Moreover, he also says that things become easier with the passage of time and the ways towards achieving one’s goals open up if one perseveres.
His younger brother Zahoor Ahmad Dar, 21, who is studying in 12th standard, says that “he took up selling Kangris when he was in 8th standard.”
“After my tuitions classes are over I used to go out to sell Kangris,” Ahmad said.
Zahoor says, “Business of selling firepots was started by our grandfather and when he passed away the business was handed over to my father from whom we took it up.” He says that major chunk of their family income comes from selling Kangris.
“My struggle as an 8th standard student and a Kangri seller never skips my mind. I have been doing both taks for past seven years now,” he adds. “Now in the morning time I go for my tuitions till afternoon and later on spend time in the work.”
He says that he doesn’t have an option to focus only on his studies as he along with his brother has a family to feed. “I have four sisters among which two are studying in final year of graduation and in 12th standard.”
Zahoor believes that working on his own is better than working under an employer. “I think having your own business is better as one isn’t bound by any obligation to work anytime.”
Both Zahoor and Ali reveal that they sell around two thousand firepots every winter which gets them a good amount of money for the family.
Meanwhile, Ali being the head of the family after his father’s death takes it as his duty to look out and feed the other family members.
Ali was only 12 when he started selling Kangris with his father. He had plenty of time for himself as his father mostly managed the affairs of the family. After his father’s death responsibilities have increased, yet every member of the family provides the helping hand.
When Ali sued to be in Srinagar, which was during his classes in the city, it was easier to sell Kangris here. But during holidays, he had to cover many miles to make sales. Nothing deterred the young man who had seen some of the harshest days and struggled to keep up a decent living for himself and his family.
Ali’s 24 years old sister, Fahmeeda Dar, a 3rd-year student of Arts says that she helps in preparing the material in the morning while studying in the late evening hours. “I have to help my brothers as they are striving to earn for us.”
Rubeena Dar, one of the other sisters is pursuing a nursing degree in a college in Chadoora area.
Rubeena says that she doesn’t get enough time to help her brothers as she is busy with her college. “Still I try to help them whenever I get time.”