ABOUT THE RICHARD POINTON COLLECTION
My collection of oriental handmade carpets, kelims and collectibles is both large and extensive. It has been put together piece by piece over many years with a collector’s passion and a collector’s eye. Taken as a whole, it is unique and every carpet in my huge collection has been selected by me. Furthermore, if it is one of the pieces from my Cultural Survival Programme then I have been involved in almost every aspect of its creation, from researching the original design and provenance, getting the dyes right, how I want the finished carpet to “feel”, and even how I want the wool to be spun.
What most people see as a business is so much more than that. It is a way of life that has allowed me to follow as best I may Rumi’s dictum, “Let the beauty we love be what we do.”
Growing up in the Wairarapa in the 1950’s I was, both in distance and understanding, about as far away from the East as a boy could possibly get.
However, when I was about eight or nine years old, a thoughtful neighbour gave me a huge box of old National Geographic Magazines and they were a revelation to me. In particular, I found myself drawn back time and again to any articles about the East, both Near and Far. What a wonder it was for me to see photographs of elaborate palaces and mosques; woman decked out in gorgeous colourful saris, or shrouded in burkhas; wandering nomads with their camels, tents and of course, their carpets. This was a world that I never knew existed. It was exotic, romantic and mysterious, and I have had a fascination for and a curiosity about all things oriental ever since.
So, it should be no surprise that when I was in my late 20’s and earning a reasonable wage, I started collecting Persian and oriental carpets. It was only going to be a matter of time before I got myself involved in the carpet business and in 1982, I made my first buying trip to the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. Since then I have travelled to Turkey, India, Nepal, China, Iran, Pakistan and its border regions with Afghanistan. Recently, during a public lecture I was asked how many trips I have actually made over the years. I had to admit that I didn’t really know but, at a guess I supposed it would be around eighty or so.
Obviously, given all the social and political upheavals in those regions, wandering around on my own looking for carpets was never going to be a rational option. Consequently, I have always had a “minder”, a local who not only had some knowledge about the carpet business, but who also had some nous, the presence of mind to keep me out of harm’s way.
Over the years I have had a number of travelling companions, Haji Rhemetullah, Abdul Gaffer and Ali Nazari to name a few, all of them good people and each one of them a dear friend. But if I had to choose a favourite then it would have to be Khudai Bairde.
Khudai Bairde was a Turkoman refugee from Afghanistan, one of the three million or so who fled to Pakistan to avoid the civil war. Neither of us could be absolutely sure when we first met, although we would both agree that it was in the shop of Mahomet Ilyas in Lahore. However, when I refer back to the photographs that I took at the time, I believe it must have been in 1989.
In many respects Khudai Bairde was the ideal travelling companion. He had set up a small business in Pakistan specialising in tribal carpets so he obviously had the knowledge and experience I needed. Better still, I discovered that he was held in high regard by other traders throughout the region. That his English was virtually non-existent and I couldn’t speak Turkoman had the potential, if there was no one around to translate for us, problematic. But it never was. Whatever difficulties we did encounter were dissolved by Khudai Bairde’s cheerfulness and his firm conviction that if your intentions were pure then everything worked towards the good.
My first trip away with him was one of the the most memorable, not because of anything that happened in particular, except for a comment that he made at the end.
We had spent three or four days in Quetta in Balouchistan and then travelled across to Peshawar in the North West Frontier for about a week or so. The business side of things had gone particularly well, not in the least because of Khudai Bairde’s well-deserved reputation with all the other traders. His presence made it all seem so easy and if I’m to be honest, on that first excursion, he carried me along in his wake.
When we got back to Lahore, I happened to mention to him that what made this trip so enjoyable for me wasn’t just the beautiful carpets that he had helped me to find. There was something more. To my surprise, I found myself quite moved by the friendliness and the generosity of all the traders that he had introduced me to. I told him I had begun to realise that what I was doing was so much more than just buying carpets, I was also learning how to connect in a meaningful way with the people that I met.
Khudai Bairde replied with a comment that has stayed with me ever since. He said, as it was translated to me:
“The only transaction that is smiled upon by God is the one that leaves a sweet taste in the mouths of both the buyer and seller.”
The smile that he was referring to was a metaphor for “barakat” which translates into “blessing.”
A few years later, barakat came up in a conversation with my friend Haji Bilal. He explained to me that for those so blessed, barakat worked like grace, perhaps you might even say goodness, and it was infused into everything they did and touched.
My relationship with Khudai Bairde, Haji Bilal, Haji Rhemetullah, Abdul Ghaffer, Ali Nazari, in fact, with almost everyone I have met on my travels has been exactly that, a blessing.
And as I discovered, this business is not just about the carpets; it is about people.
(I forwarded a copy of this article to Haji Bilal to get his comments and, for interests’ sake, I have included it here exactly as he wrote it).
Oh my God Richard, absolutely heart-warming & heart touching Bhaijan! So beautifully expressed really! This business we have been into, feels so mystical at times.
I feel blessed and humbled to be in this trade where we have been given an opportunity to come with face to face with .... what the author of the other book that you mentioned in your other article maybe meant when he said, “An unexpected light.”
Awesome! Stay blessed & BE the light & Barakat”.