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Imtiaz Arab Khatri

 Interview Summary

Imtiaz is now twenty and has been block printing for eight years, after leaving school after the seventh standard to learn the trade. He recalls that he quickly learned the techniques, both by following guidance but also through working on his own. In a day, he can print three to four saris, each one taking around two hours to complete. Imtiaz and his fellow workers start their shift at seven or eight in the morning, working until five o’clock. In addition to printing, printers also act as porters, loading and unloading the bulky bundles of cloth. They also have to clean the workshop and the adjacent office. For his work, Imtiaz is paid six thousand rupees a month; a sum which he is satisfied with. The work is however, difficult and laborious. He has a raised swelling on the palm of his hand from continually pressing the block on the cloth. Imtiaz eventually got used to the pain; but he adds that in general, the suffering of artisans often goes unnoticed.

Imtiaz finds his work extremely monotonous. His own father left the profession to become a washer of mandap largely, he says, because of boredom. He also adds that neither of his two brothers are interested in doing the work. In fact, Imtiaz hopes one day to move to Mumbai, attracted by a less demanding 'metro life' there. While ajrakh is not dying out, its producers may face future increases in labour costs if the craft fails to attract new artisans into the profession. Imtiaz and his co-workers see little opportunity to start their own workshop particularly due to lack of capital.