KASHMIR In Capital: ‘Shahnama’ of Legacy Shawl

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Father-Son duo of Shah Arts Emporium. KO Photos by Romaan Arora.

When the Shaw Brothers split into separate entities during the “Quit Kashmir” era, it was more devastating for the group that had to leave the glorious name behind. However, rather than falling despair, they chose to make their way through the mountains and now sits comfortably in a marvelous shop at one of New Delhi’s commercial hubs.

By Romaan Arora

SOUNDING like a sage, Syed Masood Ahmad Shah is trying to secure a commercial call that since decades has created his cult in Delhi’s shawl syndicate.

Along with his son, Mohsin Shah, Masood is the face behind the popular showroom—Shah Arts Emporium—that stands tall in the Adchini business locality of New Delhi.

“It’s not the same anymore,” says Masood while handing over his loyal clients to his son Mohsin. “I get tired too early now, and find it hard to work in this scorching heat of March.”

Masood is the third generation Shaw scion and a man who frequented the Indian capital from 1962 to 1984 just to master the art of business. He got immense yet tiring success in establishing a powerful foundation in the name of his “blessed forefathers” for the next 20 years.

Now, at 81, Masood, a native of Ishber Nishat area of Srinagar, hopes to carry forward the Shah legacy in his own exquisite style.

“It’s majorly his work now,” says the octogenarian in an impressive yet pale voice while signalling towards his son. “I’ve done my part.”

Syed Masood Ahmad Shah.

Masood traces his trade evolution from the classic cashmere split of 1944, when the seven brothers of the Shah clan divided into a group of four and three.

While the three carried the legacy of the Shaw Brothers, the group of four, including Masood’s father, formed Shah & Company.

In 1979, however, the brand was renamed to its present form and hasn’t seen any change since then.

The brand’s Delhi showroom.

It was hard initially, Masood says, as the four brothers lacked the legacy name. Nonetheless, they managed to take the flight, and became successful in their own enterprises.

Back then, to make his son self-sustainable and enterprising, Masood’s father asked him to start a separate business to gain personal experience.

Young Masood soon came to Delhi to explore possibilities for himself. Two decades later, in 1984, he decided to settle in the capital to run his own shawl store.

“But a house was more important for us than a shop initially,” Masood, recalling his transition, says.

“So I first bought a home for my family in 1984, and then a shop in 1987 at Hauz Khas.”

Cashmere Collection.

But before coming of age, Masood had slogged to create his own mark in Delhi.

It was backbreaking in the beginning, he recalls, as he used to put counters in Connaught Place, followed by door-to-door campaigning.

“When I had no shop, my clients treated me better than a shopkeeper,” he recalls. “And, to repay the gesture, I never compromised in the quality I deliver. Alhamdulillah, we’re maintaining the momentum ever since.”

While he worked diligently for the next two big decades, his son Mohsin added scores of academic qualifications to his name.

“The degrees before my name are a result of his backbreaking and ceaseless efforts,” says Mohsin, attributing all his success to his father. “I’m nothing without my father!”

Mohsin Shah

Over the years, the father-son duo has experienced a clear difference between the retreating valley and the developed desert of Delhi.

“Kashmir as a workplace is more relaxed,” says Mohsin while serving me an authentic Kashmiri Kehwa. “There, we can go anywhere anytime. But, everything is metered here.”

Without forming a professional identity, you can’t even dream of working in the capital, Mohsin adds.

“The exposure, the pace, the variety of clients, everything here needs masterfulness.”

Shawl from Shah House.

But once an export powerhouse, the Shah Arts Emporium now mainly caters to domestic market. It’s facing a tough time due to the competition from the Chinese machine-made goods.

“With the advent of machine-made goods, the authentic Kashmiri handicraft suffered to an extreme end,” Mohsin says. “Kashmir also lost a huge portion of its craft masters.”

However, Mohsin, unlike his father, is quite hopeful for a power pack comeback.

“By heart I’m Kashmiri,” he says with a firm belief. “And that’s enough to keep me hopeful for a better tomorrow.”

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