An 82-year-old man from Pampore hamlet of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district is keeping the tradition alive by running one of the last ox-driven oil mills in Kashmir.
Ghulam Mohammad Wani, known as Mum Wani, a resident of Namblabal, Pampore, has been associated with the work for the last six decades. He has learned it from his parents and grandparents.
Talking to the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), Wani said that with his death, the centuries-old profession will also die as nobody in the locality or his family is taking any interest in it.
“For the last six decades it has been my routine to wake up early in the morning and set up the mill equipment, uniting ox and start the mill to extract oil,” Wani said, adding that he was in studying in 5th class when he started to learn from his father how to operate the mill. Since then, he is carrying forward the family profession.
Ghulam said that technological advancement has taken a heavy toll on his work and even his family members are telling him to leave it. “But till I am alive, I am going to continue my work,” he said.
It takes around 3 to 4 days to process the 100 kg mustard and I’m hardly earning 100 to 200 rupees on it if I work full day which is not sufficient in today’s world, Wani said, adding, “I am an old man and I won’t be able to earn anything now but for me, it carries spiritual connotations and I can’t leave it till my last breath.” Wani, however, is satisfied with being financially independent.
He said the oil extracted here is pure, free from adulteration and is used for cooking, the massage of bones and muscles and hair. People prefer to buy market oil and demand for manually-extracted oil is very less but there are some customers who still prefer using this oil, he added.
Ghulam Muhammad Wani said the traditional mill which he operates is made up of a wooden arrangement that is run by using bulls to extract oil from mustard seeds. The animal attached to a pole moves around the wooden scooped circular pit in the centre and as the animal moves in the circular ambit it exerts lateral pressure crushing the seeds in the pit to extract oil.
It is being said that the oil extracted through this traditional method is of super quality as compared to refined packed oil.
“Oil extractor (Taelwani) was known as Khoje Kaar (royal man’s art) but this traditional oil mill is now on its last legs in Kashmir,” he lamented—(KNO)