GUWAHATI, Jan 23 � From Kashmir they come, confronting a communication gap and separation from family members. In a few more days they will return to their native land carrying well earned money with a fair share of goodwill. For the young men selling woollens in Assam, it would be the end of another busy season.
It is in October that the intrepid entrepreneurs reach Assam to sale their wares, which include shawls, churidars, stoles, and other assorted garments. The prices range from Rs 500 to Rs 6,000 or more. Among the costliest are Pashmina shawls, some of which take weeks to produce. Manjur Ahmed Wani, one of the travelling salesmen from Anantnag says, he loves his forays into Assam. �People here are nice, and some families have made us feel special�it is not merely a business any more�, he said.
He and other members of his group have been coming to Assam for more than six years, and they have come to realize things about the market quite well. They know that the demand has shifted from shawls towards stoles, and admit that churidars continue to outsell any other garment. Perhaps the gradual shortening of the winter season has something to do with it. �Women, both young and otherwise are more into stoles than shawls�it could also be due to changing fashion,� remarked Wani.
Every autumn, the entrepreneurs from Kashmir would purchase garments with loans from lending agents, and send them by road transport to Guwahati. In the city, they will take delivery of the consignments and start selling those going door to door.
The veterans of the trade bring along young sellers, some of who could be fifteen or sixteen years of age. By the third and fourth trip, the young ones get acclimatized with the atmosphere.
They will travel back to Kashmir by mid of February, and till autumn will look after their family-run farms and business. �We will be busy pursuing a livelihood, but the warmth of Assamese people is always there in the back of our mind,� Wani added.