That was in 1989 and the Indian army was on the sprawl in the Kashmiri valley with the ‘Operation Catch and Kill’. Fahim had lost his father when he was just one year old and his mother did not want to lose him now.
The family had nobody to turn to, for the simple reason that they were poor. Fahim took a train to Kerala with his cousin and reached Kovalam, where a new life awaited him.
Fahim Mir is now 35 and the director of Classic Gallery and Leisure Pvt Ltd. at Chowara. The feel-good gallery, as he calls it and that too, in the true Buddhist way.
Enter the gallery and there are sculptures of Buddha in various roles, postures and names. As Fahim says, every sculpture has a story behind it and he can tell you every single one.
But before that, he tells you his own. “I was employed as a cleaner boy by a gallery owner in Kovalam at his shop. It was near the beach, for a monthly salary of Rs 400. I spent the days working and whenever I got time, took to reading books. It was then I came upon Hermann Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’,” he says.
And it changed his life forever. Buddhism became his first love. Despite the hardships Fahim began to love his job passionately. “After that when I am selling a Buddhist art, I know what I am doing. I give the customers a complete idea of what they are buying.” It was intensity, which was not for sale.
In 2000, he opened a small shop by the beach selling artefacts and then another in 2002. This time it was a gallery and he wanted it to be special.
“There are Tibetan art, Indian art, ritual objects, thangka paintings and embroideries that you come across here. Some are old and some are not. I have collected it from different parts of India,” he says.
He also has a partner, who shares the passion for art, Barbara Van Engelen from Germany. “I do the selling work and she takes care of the organisational work,” says Fahim.
It’s the unique miniature models of Buddha in bronze, copper, silver and gold compositions in the gallery, that leaves one mesmerised by it’s beauty and expression.
The five Dhyani Buddhas, Vairochana, Akshobya, Ratnasambhav, Amitabha and Amoghshiddhi and the various expressions of Tara, the female Buddha are lined up in the shelves.
For those wondering how Buddha can be a female, Fahim says,” Buddha is not the name of a person, it’s someone who knows the reality of life.” Tara is seen in 21 different postures from Green Tara and White Tara to standing Tara.
“Green Tara is worshipped as a forest deity while White Tara is seven-eyed. There is a mantra too to appease Tara, which goes, Om Tare Tutare Ture Svaha, meaning I bow to the body of Green Tara “says Fahim.
One of the eye-catching sculpture is that of Vajradhara, priest of the Dhyani Buddhas, embracing his consort. It carries the message of union between Man and Buddha. The gallery also has a collection of ritual objects like the prayer wheels, healing sticks, stupas and prayer boxes.
Exclusive hand-embroidered bedspreads, cushion covers and ladies handbags from Gujarat are also available at Classic.
Fahim also has an Italian interpreter, Allesandra Tazimi, who makes the work easy for him.” Usually Italians don’t speak English and I hate to see people leaving my shop, just because they don’t understand the language or enjoy the ambience,” he says.
With the tourist season on, Fahim works from dawn to dusk but his pageboys can have time for themselves once the cleaning work is done with. “I don’t want slaves in my gallery because I know how they feel,” he says.
Come April, and Fahim will be on his way to some exotic lands where he gets to exhibit his art and learn about new things. For everything else, he owns a Buddha, which he keeps close to his heart, every season.