SRINAGAR: Alexander the Great sits next to a dinosaur. The endangered Hangul watches on as a herd of elephants seems to ready for a march. Characters in a sci-fi movie? No. These are walnut carvings that crowd the workshop of deaf-and-dumb Muran brothers in the old city.
The brothers—Abdul Ahad and Mohammad Yusuf—have not let their disability to come in the way of becoming one of the most talented woodcarvers whose creations have made it to the international markets.
The duo was initially trained into making carved walnut furniture and other traditional walnut items, the mainstay of the family’s business under the banner Paradise Wood House at Narwara.
“They discovered their passion for carving figurines,” said Mudasir Muran, son of Ahad, who looks after the business.
From animals, living and extinct, to Greek and Hindu mythological figures, the brothers have made a variety of carvings. Mudasir said that after receiving an order from a businessman, the duo even made carvings of Mahatma Gandhi and Saddam Hussein.
“They turned down an order for the figure of Hazrat Eesa (Jesus) because it is a sin,” Mudasir said.
Both brothers often work on an item together after getting hold of good-quality walnut, which Mudasir said is a prerequisite.
“Once carved, they will last centuries,” he said.
The brothers step outside the workshop in case the sculpture is large sized.
Ahad pointed towards a big walnut log wrapped in cloth and gestured as if he was riding a horse while holding its leash with both hands, meaning the log will be shaped into a horse.
In one of the Murran showcase rooms, some extinct and endangered animal carvings have been elaborately laid as if in a museum.
The family members say the brothers passionately watch the TV channel, Animal Planet. After every watching, a walnut log takes the shape of a new animal.
“Unfortunately, though the carvings are great, they don’t fetch good money,” Mudsair said.
While Muran brothers’ works are in demand, the family does not get to build on it. Mudasir said they cannot even write the firm’s name on these creations.
“I am sure that our items have travelled all over the world but no one knows the real artists,” he said.
In 2013, the brothers made a model of a houseboat that became part of a kilometer-long art work at the Mumbai Airport.
“Outsiders praised the model but the state government did not give it due attention,” he said.
“At times my father and uncle feel no one in the family shall carry on this tradition as there is little recognition of their craft,” Mudasir said. The Muran brothers express Mudasir’s sentiment through gestures.
Now Mudasir vows to do his bit by exhibiting and marketing their works at different exhibitions in India and selling the products directly at the family shop on the Srinagar-Jammu highway.