Sherfun Nisa

Aging couple holds on to the legacy of traditional flour mill

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Kulgam village reminds of ‘The Miller of the Dee’

Kulgam: Like the Clarles Mackay’s ‘The Miller of the Dee’, this elderly couple running a traditional flour mill or ‘Gratte’ at Wokai village in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district since past four decades remains busy in their own world….

The couple in their late 60’s, Abdul Khaliq Hajam and his wife Hajra Begum believes, “the traditional techniques and machinery are debtless treasures our forefathers have left behind for us. These legacies should be preserved and carried forth.”

With moist eyes, Hajam recalls that his grandfather had five sons -- so this flour mill was shared among five of them. One-fifth share was given to his father, which later passed on to him, as he was the only son of his parents.

But he had to part with a piece of land so as to be able to purchase four other shares from his uncles. “Since that day, I am looking after this mill,” says Hajam, who also does some farming.

He said it is his wife Hajra who takes care of the mill.

“Earlier, I would spend whole day in this mill but now, age has brought along weakness, and my work has also suffered. I am not able to devote much time to the mill,” says Hajira.

The concerned couple says they will work in the mill till they breath their last, and hope their children will also carry on with it – though as of now none of their four sons is interested in this job.

“My sons are busy in their respective works. Two of them run a barber shop, one is in government service and the fourth one studies in the city. They barely get time to be at home,” they say, even as they are not sure about their mill running after they are gone.

“Who can say what is going to happen next -- may be one of them takes this heritage to next level,” says Hajam.

Hajam says despite the availability of moderns mills, there still are people in Kashmir who prefer traditionally grinded flour.

“Our mill fetches people from surrounding areas for grinding purposes. Usually we earn two kilograms of flour for every 20 kilograms that are milled here, but some people even pay in cash,” they say.

Hajira says people may have taken to modern milling techniques, but it has come with a cost.

“Food stuffs milled using traditional techniques are harmless for health as they are pure and without any adulteration. Today, the market products have ruined our stomachs. We did not respect our legacy so we are suffering,” says Hajra.

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