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Srinagar’s Horologists Face the Demise of Their Cherished Art

Tsuktiben Jamir

Horology or the art of clock and watchmaking is an intricate and delicate process that requires patience and acquired skill, and for many, it was through this practise that they were able to put food on the table. Such was the case for people like Mohammad Yousuf Khanday who has been in the business of watch-making for nearly 30 years of his life. For, some the business has been passed down from generations. Khanday is one among many in the city of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, who have become the victims of the era of smartwatches and are facing a setback in their trade.

Once having a booming and lucrative industry, the clock and watchmakers in Srinagar are currently living in poverty. Previously regarded as an expert in the field, Mohammad Yousuf Khanday now sells tea at the same shop where his once successful business of clock and watchmaking used to thrive. “Once I was a technically equipped watchmaker. Today I am a chaiwala,” Khanday told PTI.

“Due to the advent of smartphones, gradually this business started to die. We were very happy and satisfied with our profession. Being technically skilled, I used to service clocks and wristwatches and sell calculators as well,” he further added.

Mohammad Hussain, another watchmaker who had been in the trade for almost 50 years, and seen the highs of the business, is now witnessing the lows like never before: “Earlier our work used to go on very smoothly and several people used to work in this line of profession. They were quite prosperous too. We used to be busy repairing clocks and watches of all shapes and sizes.”

He said, “It is my family business. My father and uncle also used to do the same. I learned the skill of the trade at a very young age from my father. I was passionate about my work.”

These horologists attribute the decline in their business to the replacement of conventional watches and alarm clocks by smartwatches and smartphones. Hussain added, “But now we don’t even get mechanics. No one wants to learn this skill as everyone has acknowledged that there is no future in this profession. But we are on the verge of retirement and now we can’t opt for any other profession. Presently labourers earn around five hundred rupees per day, but we only earn a meagre sum of Rs 150 a day.”

Horology is an art in itself; the attention to minute details and training the hand to be as delicate as ever. For ordinary people, the craft may not be as meaningful. In fact, the advent of technology has made life more comfortable for us. However, for people like Khanday and Hussain, it has turned life upside down. This also portrays the irony of life; while it is a boon for some, it is misery for others.

“I used to help my father along with his technicians. There were four watchmakers in this area,” Hussain said. He believes that although clocks are still marketed, they are mostly used as ornamental items: “Clocks are now used for decoration in households and that is the only reason that they are still being sold. Those who used to work in the watch-making line have now switched to modern electronic shops,” Hussain added.

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