Meet the last of Kashmir's 'German Khar' craftsmen
The ''German Khars'' are a family of craftsmen known in Srinagar for their skills repairing old German-made medical equipment. Their craft has been preserved for decades, but today only one blacksmith continues the work. By Rifat Fareed
The last "German Khar": Ghulam Mohiuddin is in his late 70s, but he still works every day in his small workshop in Srinagar's Rainawari district, producing and repairing small hospital tools made of iron. Through years of practice, he can make replicas of many small tools used in hospitals
A unique set of skills: during the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh when Kashmir was a kingdom in the 1940s, Germans manufactured medical equipment. Mohiuddin's family members could repair the German-made equipment perfectly, and impressed German craftsmen at the time. Singh named the craftsmen German Khars (blacksmiths) for their expertise in repairing the equipment, which no one else could do in Kashmir
Hand-made hospital tools: Mohiuddin is seen here making a pair of forceps by hand. It will take him a week to produce and should fetch around €40. This tool will be used during surgery at a hospital in India-administered Kashmir's largest city, Srinagar
Tools that save lives: Mohiuddin says despite earning little money, he continues to work on his craft to help people. "I make this equipment because it saves lives, otherwise I would have left the work," he said, adding he has tried to hire helpers, but they are not patient enough for the craft
"Thorough and precise": in the 1940s, a German hospital administrator in Srinigar wrote a letter to Mohiuddin's father, praising the work as "so perfect that one cannot tell which is real and which is the replica. His work is extremely thorough and precise"
Who will continue the work? Mohiuddin and his brothers learned the craft from their father and grandfather. Today, he is the last of his seven brothers who still works as a craftsman, and he fears no one will continue the work when is he gone. Producing replicas of hospital tools is hard work that requires a lot of skill and patience for little pay. "It is my passion to keep doing this work," he said