On Saturday, November 14, we took a 6 hour drive south down to Chistian, a community that Bunyaad has been working in for 6 years. The Chistian area has a long history of Persian rug making. Bunyaad needed more rug making capacity and learned that talented rug makers in Chistian often did not have enough work and were sometimes exploited by unscrupulous rug buyers. Mr. Shah was recruited to be the local Bunyaad Rug Supervisor and today families operating 75 looms are supplying top quality Persian rugs to Bunyaad.
At this time of year Chistian is a dry and dusty place. The rug makers that we visited live in a relatively new Government owned community called Tibba Iqbal Nagar where they can build houses but do not own the land (sort of like a very low cost long term lease). Unfortunately, most of the residents are poor so facilities like good drinking water and electricity have not yet arrived in the community. Despite the hardships, very talented rug makers are making exceptional rugs.
Meet Mr. Abdul Ghaffar
The first rug making family that we visited was headed by Mr. Abdul Ghaffar (nickname: Bhutto). Bhutto was working with his cousin, Md. Zafar, on a 4′ x 6′ Persian rug with 20/20 quality (800 knots per square inch). Bhutto used to work in a rug factory in Chistian town but says that the pay and working conditions while working at home and making rugs for Bunyaad are much better. Bhutto explained that drinking water has to be carried from the next village and that electricity has not yet come to his community.
Meet Mr. Abdul Jabbar
Next we visited Abdul Jabbar (nickname: Teddie) who makes rugs with his brother, Abdul Affar. Their wives also help in making rugs. They were working on a 7 foot round Persian, 16/16 quality (512 knots per square inch). Teddie said that without rug orders their only other employment option is to work in the local brickyards. This is seasonal work, usually in June and July which are the hottest months of the year. In addition, pay in the brickyards is very low so it’s a poor alternative to rug making. Teddie had a solar panel on his roof so that he can power an electric fan during the day and an LED light at night. This means he can work longer hours on his rugs.
Meet Md. Asif and family
After walking a short distance, we found Md. Asif working on a 4.5 x 7 foot rug (20/20 quality, 800 knots per square inch) on a loom set up outside under a canopy. He is a young man who has decided to work on his own, on his own loom. In the same family compound, Md. Asif’s father and his two brothers were working on a 9 x 12 foot Persian rug (20/20 quality). They said they have been working on the rug for more than 3 months and have 5 more months to go if they work 8 hours per day. By the time the rug comes off the loom they will probably have worked on it for close to a year.
Meet Mr. Ghulam Rasoom
Next we met Ghulam Rasoom at his front gate and he welcomed in to see his special 9 x 12 foot ‘peacock’ rug. He said that 4 people working 8 hours a day would take 8 months to complete this 16/16 quality rug (512 knots per square inch). Rasoom has 25 years of rug making experience and he has made 4 rugs for Bunyaad. He likes working for Bunyaad because he gets paid on time and the pay is higher than other rug buyers offer. He was obviously pleased to be making rugs for Bunyaad. It was good to see his friendly interaction with Mr. Shah, his rug supervisor, Ehsan and Yousaf.
We also visited Shabbir and Munir who were working on a 9 x 12 Persian at their home. Shabbir used to work at Wall’s Ice Cream in Lahore. When his father died he moved back home to help take care of the family. He says it is much better to work at home because the rug making work is year round, the pay is much better and the cost of living is less than in the big city. He had 8 years of rug making experience before going to Lahore to look for other work so he already was a skilled rug maker.
Before leaving Chistian, we stopped at Mr. Shah’s office in town and enjoyed a great meal with Mr. Shah and his friends. In addition to being the local Bunyaad Rug Supervisor, Mr. Shah is also a well-liked local politician and has many friends in the community.
We had a great day in Chistian, learning to know some rug makers and seeing how Bunyaad works with communities to help improve rug making income and local living conditions. All of this works together to produce superior quality rugs that we can proudly show to our customers in North America.
Stay tuned for Doug’s next trip post
We’ll be keeping notes, recording our experiences and taking photos so that you can follow our adventures on the Bunyaad blog. We’ll come back from Pakistan with new friends, memorable experiences, tons of rug making knowledge and lots of new stories to tell.
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Just in case you missed the first post. Read Pakistan Learning Tour