Cold wave across north India has forced thousands of young and old women to opt for Kashmir Pheran as the preferred dress for protection against extreme cold. Pheran has found quick acceptability among women as the over garment because it does not come in the way of their work either at home or office. Newly fashioned Pheran is eminently activity friendly for women.
But no one in Kashmir seems to be checking where are the Pherans being stitched and embroidered and where are they coming from ? Are they coming from Kashmir or is this ‘Amritsari maal’ ? We are not being curious enough? As usual we are lost in our own selfish struggles and affairs.
Pherans are made of fine woolen cloth material and almost always embroidered in case of women. The growing market for Kashmir Pheran can create lakhs of jobs for our artisans and youngsters in Kashmir, particularly women folk to do the fine hand embroidery work. You can rest assured that winters over the next few decades will be as cold or colder due to climate change impact. In fact the focus should not only be on ladies Pheran but also on Pherans for infants and older males. J&K government can at least help to popularize Pheran through its Handicrafts and Handloom Corporation outlets in Delhi and other north Indian cities. Jammu city and the region have always been a good market for Pherans. Jammu market is also growing which is clearly visible on the streets and offices these days.
If hand embroidery is developed and publicized as distinctive feature of Kashmir Pheran to differentiate it from machine embroidery, then hand embroidered Pherans from Kashmir will sell huge in the north Indian market among middle and upper middle class buyers. The J&K Handicrafts & Handloom corporation can seek expert advice from Delhi based fashion houses and NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), Srinagar campus, to advise on the types of cut and embroidery for different market segments.
Kashmir business persons and suppliers must put their heads together to also think of other handmade woolen products for supply during next winter. There are many possibilities including Jackets, sweaters, gloves, mufflers, coats etc. At one time Tweed coats of J&K Handloom Development Corporation (Poshish) had become quite popular in Delhi among senior government officers. I remember our IAS seniors and colleagues in the J&K cadre were all very fond of Poshish coats and some of them made extra efforts to popularize these in Delhi among their colleagues, family and friends. Late Sh. Ashok Jaitly and late Sh. H.H Tyabji come to mind. Our own Mr. Sahasranaman, retd IAS who was Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce during 2003-05 made sincere efforts to popularize Handlooms of Kashmir. Therefore, those who are in charge right now will not have to reinvent the wheel except that the possibilities have multiplied in view of climate change induced weather paradigm in north India.
Kashmir based entrepreneurs have a great opportunity to grab and instead of looking for subsidies and incentives elsewhere, they must look seriously at the expanding Pheran market in north India and plan to supply only ‘made in Kashmir’ Pherans.
This is also an opportunity for skilling and reskilling. That will have to be undertaken both by government and the private sector. Quality of embroidery has to be exquisite with the Kashmir finesse and artistry to make it the USP of Kashmir made Pherans. It is hand embroidery that will give competitive edge and branding to Kashmir Pheran. Early bird catches the worm. Hope Kashmir based suppliers of Kashmir made Pherans turn out to be the first movers.
Many years back I got a chance to meet late Sh. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister at Delhi in 2003 when I was the Resident Commissioner and accompanying late Sh. Mufti Mohammad Sayed, the then CM, to see ailing Sh. Singh at his Delhi residence. He was wearing a Pheran which looked good on him. He was reasonably tall and handsome, though quite unwell at that time. This digression is to tell the reader that Pheran can become a choice for many men as well, particularly older men outside Kashmir, as it is a very comfortable over garment for use at home in winter months.
PM Modi Ji has also donned Pheran on a few occasions and it looks nice on him too. Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are often seen in Pheran. Actor Anupam Kher was seen wearing a traditional Pheran at Ayodhya on 22nd January during Pran Pratishtha, the grand consecration ceremony. Sonia Gandhi ji often wears Pheran while on visit to Kashmir. All these Pheran aficionados and many other celebrities can be approached and requested to continue patronizing the Pheran. Film actors, men and women, who come to Kashmir for film shooting will, expectedly, be happy to showcase Kashmir Pheran.
The J&K government should try to organize a Pheran exhibition including a fashion show at Delhi and invite some top government dignitaries and other eminent personalities from different walks of life and those from Delhi who are retired and have worked in Kashmir for long in senior positions in Civil, Army and other organisations. Everyone will be happy to help in pushing the cause of good old Pheran.
The J&K Handicraft and Handloom Development Corporation will be well advised to set up a separate Pheran profit centre for the next three to four years to give a boost to this activity in terms of both, promotion and sale. They can then exit from big time sale after Pheran market is well grounded for free play of competing private sector operators and suppliers.
It is now for the government and its agencies and the trade to seize the opportunity as it appears that although Pheran frenzy (Phrenzy) is playing out, no one seems to be taking serious notice.
(Khurshid Ahmed Ganai is a retired IAS officer of erstwhile J&K cadre and a former Advisor to the Governor )