The interior of Folly at Amethyst today is decked up like a bride. Sunlight streaming in from a series of square windows on top bounces off the carpets that cover almost every inch of the space. It is Sami Meer’s, a third-generation Kashmiri carpet maker, exhibition that is on display.
After inviting visitors in with a handful of dry fruits, Sami unrolls a red carpet. “It’s a kilim,” he describes the woollen tapestry, “They are travel rugs, made by the Khanabadosh people; they are nomads who go from mountain to mountain with their sheep and goats.”
His collection of almost 60 carpets, kilims and pashmina shawls is hung on the walls, rolled into bundles and made to stand in the corners, and some laid out on the floor at Folly. “Those are original Persian rugs,” he points towards one wall. “Then we have Kashmiri silk ones,” he says, running a finger along a soft velvety baby blue carpet. “The Persian weavers who settled in Kashmir imparted their weaving techniques and designs to the Kashmiris,” he says. “The design may be Persian, but the silk workmanship is Kashmiri.”
Sami sources his carpets from weavers in Iran, Balochistan in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco and Turkey. All the carpets on display are hand-knotted, he informs us. “The knottage is so unique that a collector can identify which area it is from,” he says, flipping over two carpets to show the different stitches on their underside: “The first is from Isfahan, the second from Heriz.” Similarly, he goes on to show rugs from Kirman and Nain — areas in modern-day Iran.
He not only sources these rugs, but his shop, Virasat in Neelankarai, also offers repairs, servicing and washing options. Most of the servicing is outsourced to workers in Delhi and Srinagar. “I have grown up watching my grandfather and father weave such carpets at our home in Srinagar,” he says. He, however, moved to Chennai owing to growing tensions in Kashmir in 1992. “We tried going home in 2010, but came back to Chennai in 2016 after the fallout from Burhan Wani’s encounter made it difficult for our shop to stay open.”
“The price for each carpet depends on its size and quality; for the Persian ones, it depends on which area they were made in...” he says. The silk on silk Kashmiri rugs start from ₹25,000 and the Persian ones from ₹45,000. Here, in the city, he finds customers in people who are interested in learning about Kashmiri culture, and in collectors of Persian rugs. “I go to Srinagar once or twice a year,” he says. But for now, Chennai is home for Sami, his wife and two children.
Virasat’s exhibition is on today at Folly, Amethyst. To reach out to him, call 7550016911.