HYDERABAD: Apart from the bangles that are sold in Laad Bazar of the Old City, another glittering attraction that has been providing employment to many is the silver foil used on sweets.
The fate of this traditional trade hangs in the balance now. In what could be regarded as a cruel reality for these artisans, Old City which had around 40 shops selling ‘Chandi ka Warq’ has only four left now.
Mohammad Afroz, who was found hammering silver strips in a room boiling up in the scorching heat, said that producing chandi ka warq is among the toughest occupations. “Until three years ago, each shop in Old City at least had 30 to 40 workers. Just imagine, now my shop has only seven workers. For ten hours of intense hammering in a room without a door or even a fan, I am paid only `350. On the days without sales, the pay goes down to Rs 300,” said Afroz who has been working at Ittehad Warq Shop since ten years. The shop located near the iconic Mecca Masjid has been functioning for over 70 years.
A failing business
Afroz’s employer Syed Ghouse said that various reports on chandi ka warq allegedly being harmful for health affected his business badly.“It is a small guild business. Silver is expensive. The profit margin relies on a lot of risk factors. There are a few days we are able to make some profit. But it is such an old shop and there are so many artisans who have been working for us for decades. There are livelihoods attached to the existence of this shop. But, in the present state the business is in, I don’t have means to pay too many artisans. I am compelled to ask a few to stop coming to work,” he added.
An artisan said that the market in Old City has seen a stark decrease in the number of artisans who produce chandi ka warq because of the declining business and the exploitation that they have suffered.
Mohammad Waliuddin, owner of another shop at Charminar depot said it’s true that now there are only four shops left in Old City but it is also because many of them had to be relocated outside the city because of the disturbances the intense hammering of silver caused to the urban dwellers.
Ala Khan, an artisan at Waliuddin shop said, “I have been doing this work for 35 years. I have got used to the noise created by this hammering, this hot room.”