Mission Delhi – Vaseem Ansari, Ghaziabad
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
These hands. His hands. They have shouldered a legacy. But they have also put an end to that legacy.
Vaseem Ansari is a weaver of carpets. For many years he has woven hundreds of them, and then he hasn’t weaved any for even more years. From a carpet maker, he has metamorphosed into a carpet seller. This afternoon, he has laid out his stock by a Ghaziabad pavement: the carpets are slung across a roadside fence as if they were clothes drying on a wash line. Some more are stacked on his cart, too. One carpet with an ornate design is laid out in its entirety on the top of the cart.
“All these kaleen are from Bhadohi,” he says, not caring to say more about that UP town, certain that the entire world is aware of the place, for it is world-famous in the world of carpet making.
“These are export quality,” he says matter-of-factly, while admitting that all these carpets are machine-made. “That’s the reason I had to quit carpet weaving… the machine-made carpets took over the hand-woven carpets.” The hand-work demanded lots of hours and concentration on every carpet, and was no longer yielding as much return, he further explains. So, 30 years ago, he arrived in Ghaziabad to make his living as a carpet seller.
“My father wove carpets, my grandfather wove carpets,” he says, recalling how he himself would spend his day-hours at home working on the “khaddi machine.”
By now, Vaseem Ansari is left with no links to his hometown of Bhadohi, except for regular detours to the Ghaziabad railway station to receive carpets sent from there on the Sampoorna Kranti Express. Ghaziabad is now his native land. “My father is buried here, near (nearby) Loni, in the qabristan (graveyard) behind Hanuman Mandir.” His married daughter also lives in Loni. His son is in school. “Neither of my children have ever woven even a little patch of a carpet.”
The carpet man looks at his hands and agrees that they are special — “because they have been through an age that is gone.”
[This is the 511th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The carpet walla