Why a Bengal village is losing its sleep over nightmare in Afghanistan | India News - Times of India

Why a Bengal village is losing its sleep over nightmare in Afghanistan | India News – Times of India

SONAMUKHI/KOLKATA: A cluster of families in Sonamukhi – a Bengal town some 3,000km from Kabul – are watching the events unfolding in Afghanistan with more than the normal degree of interest. For more than half a century, these families in Bankura district have had a thriving trade relation with Afghanistan, supplying high-quality silk turbans, or saafa, to Kabuliwallahs. With trade between India and Afghanistan coming to a halt following the Taliban takeover, the turban weavers and sellers are staring at a loss in business and some have already started shifting to stocking and weaving the indigenous but intricate Baluchari saris.
“We have been in this business for three generations. Till last year, I had an annual turnover of Rs 1 crore just from selling these turbans but the trade has come to a sudden stop now,” said Shyamapada Dutta, 49, who runs a loom at Sonamukhi and has a shop at Rabindra Sarani in Kolkata.
Sonamukhi’s ties with Afghans dates back to the 1960s when some Kabuliwallahs while travelling across Bengal with their spices and dry fruits were drawn to the village known for its rich silk weaves. “They gave the first orders for silk turbans and liked the products so much that they kept coming back for more, and that is how the trade began,” said Asit Baran Shoo, another weaver. He added that even in the 1990s around 500 families in the village were engaged in the turban trade but the number has now dwindled to around 50 owing to digital printing and a large section of new-age Afghans discarding turbans. The turbans are priced between Rs 350 and Rs 3,500 depending on the quality of silk used.
City-based Afghans like Md Rasul and Akhdat Khan told they had time and again bought turbans from the Rabindra Sarani store as well as from Sonamukhi either for personal use or for export. “But the situation looks grim now. We have no idea when things will get better,” said Rasul, who has been in Kolkata for the last 40 years and deals in garments.
(Inputs from Sudipto Das)

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