The dying art of making handmade farming tools

0
257

Farming tools displayed at an artisan’s shop.
Farming tools displayed at an artisan’s shop.

Every morning at 7am, Gulsher Khan opens a small shop on the Chakwal-Talagang Road near the city’s general bus stand and closes it 12 hours later.

Despite the long hours, he makes between Rs200 and Rs300 a day. In the face of modern technology, there is little demand for his products: handmade farming and household tools.

Mr Khan, who is from the Ranjha village, looks a lot older than his 65 years. Continuous labour that began during his childhood has drained much of his health. He is now one of seven or eight local artisans who make such tools, coming from various villages to work in Chakwal city.

Mohammad Din sharpens a sickle used for cutting crops.
Mohammad Din sharpens a sickle used for cutting crops.

Mr Khan was left alone as a child after his parents separated. He recalls that he was raised “in deprivation and mistreated” by his relatives. He has eight daughters, five of whom hold masters degrees while the sixth holds a bachelors and the last two are still studying.

“We eat very simple food. Many days we eat bread and onions, but I always met my daughters’ education expenses.” There was a time when artisans like Mr Khan had steady work, but now many of their handcrafted tools have been replaced by modern machinery.

Handmade balling guns, also called nullahs, on display at an artisan’s shop in Chakwal. These balling guns are used to administer medicines to cattle.
Handmade balling guns, also called nullahs, on display at an artisan’s shop in Chakwal. These balling guns are used to administer medicines to cattle.

For instance, where a plough pulled by animals was once a basic farming tool, the tractor has replaced handmade ploughs. The extinction of the handmade plough means there is little use for a yoke, or a punjali, that was used to couple the cattle together. Now, the yoke is used mainly in bull racing.

Another such tool is the winnower, used to separate husk from grain. Two kinds of handmade winnowers are used in Punjab: the traingal and the karai, and while the need for both has fallen as farmers turn to modern threshers, they are still used.

saddles (kathi) used in bull races.
saddles (kathi) used in bull races.

“We used to make every kind of farming tool, but now most have been replaced by modern tools made in industries. But there are some tools that are still made by hand,” said Mohammad Din, 64.

“A cattle owner still needs a balling gun – a nullah­ ­– to administer medicine to his cattle. A farmer still needs a saddle for his donkey and a sickle to cut fodder and harvest his crop.”

Gulsher Khan, 65, makes a wooden winnower called a traingal. — Photos by the writer
Gulsher Khan, 65, makes a wooden winnower called a traingal. — Photos by the writer

Handcrafting farming tools may survive as a profession for a decade or so, but it is waning. Mr Din learned the art from his father 40 years ago, and his grandfather was also an artisan. “But my two sons have not joined the profession.

The younger generation is not joining the profession because it offers a bleak future.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2017

Courtesy : DAWN

Print