RECALL ALLADIN, and what comes to your mind first, apart from his magical lamp? Of course, his miraculous carpet, which will, without doubt, put today's flying machines to shame. One Thousand and One Nights, so vivid in our memory, was written almost a thousand years back. Indeed a long time. Carpets have a much earlier history.

Persia, the provenance of carpets, at the acme of its civilisation spread the carpet weaving craft far and wide. Among the few places that carried this art to its zenith, the beautiful valley of Kashmir is at the forefront. But they have, lately, struck a rough patch. With machine-made carpets available in the market at cheaper rates, the original hand-made ones have been badly hit, though it still retains a niche market of its own.

Avers Masrat Pala, a young entrepreneur from Kashmir who organised an exhibition of antique carpets and other crafts called `Enhancia', in New Delhi this past week, "the problem is a lot of people don't know how to make out an original from the machine-made one. So they get the wrong ones at a price which could fetch them the real and the ever-lasting one."

Her Pala's Collection included, apart from antique carpets like Teheran, Isfahan, Hamadan etc, a rich collection of Pashmina shawls and Kilims. And while an amazing walnut-wood craft caught everybody's eye, what made many a heart go aflutter was the Magic Carpet. And true to its name, it could change its colour.

However, Masrat says the main purpose of the exhibition is not only to showcase new and old designs but also to highlight the pains a person takes to make a carpet. And for information, it takes at least four to five months to make one.

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