Centuries ago, when industrialisation was not a thing, people in Kashmir used Aab-e-Grate, a traditional water mill to grind wheat, rice, and maize.
Scattered across many villages in Ganderbal district that is dotted with streams and canals, these environment-friendly watermills are still in vogue.
Muhammad Iqbal Khatana, 58, of Surfraw village of Kangan, Ganderbal operates one such watermill since his childhood and is determined to continue his forefathers’ business.
“These Aab-e-Grate had a great significance to the villages in the era gone by. A Grate owner had a better social status in the village as the family could afford both food grains and earn money as a service charge on grinding,” Khatana says.
“Aab-e-Grate is environment friendly but largely forgotten. With the outset of industrialisation, the Aab-e-Grate is rapidly losing the demand due to modern mill,” he says.
Khatana says that these mills are powered by fast-flowing water channeled from streams, which turn the heavy grindstones, producing flour.
“Traditional watermills do not pollute the atmosphere, nor do they require electricity or fossil fuels to run,” he said. Residents of surrounding villages visit Khatana’s water mill and he charges in kind rather than cash, taking a share of the flour from his customers. “I wish to keep my family’s traditional business alive,” he says.