A few years ago I sourced a collection of handmade, traditionally inspired pieces from a jeweler in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. He had traveled to meet me in the nearby city of Multan. As we studied each piece, he told the story of his ancestors who had lived and worked in the palace of this princely state making handmade jewelry in pure gold with the finest gems for the royal family. When the rule of the Nawabs (princes) came to an end, these skilled artisans couldn’t afford to purchase the materials they needed to continue their trade. They quickly adapted and began working with silver and other metals, semi-precious and synthetic stones. Although the materials changed, the techniques that were passed down from generation to generation persisted and the handwork remains some of the finest in the world.
I am intrigued by the history of this ancient city on the edge of the desert and how it has influenced the artisans who design and produce handmade bangles, ring bracelets, earrings, ear cuffs, midi rings and other traditionally inspired jewelry pieces produced here today. When the chance to visit arose earlier this week, I jumped at the opportunity. Interestingly, it wasn’t my work with Victoria Road that was driving the visit. I had been invited to attend the inaugural ceremony of Pakistan’s first large-scale commercial solar power project in Bahawalpur.
Still engaged in the practice of law, I have spent over a year working on various solar power projects in Pakistan. I didn’t work on this project specifically but I have closely followed the progress and was thrilled to have the opportunity to see it for myself.
Upon arriving in Bahawalpur, we followed the canals that provide a lifeline to the farmers in this region until we reached the Cholistan desert. Amidst acres and acres of sand, there were hundreds of rows of neatly aligned solar panels for as far as the eye could see. The sight was amazing!
This 100MW project won’t produce nearly enough power to meet the supply gap that continues to cripple industry in the country. However, it proves that amidst all of the challenges Pakistan is facing, it is possible to develop affordable and sustainable energy that will continue moving the country in the right direction.
I love that my two worlds overlapped in such an unexpected way! I have no doubt that I’ll be back in the Cholistan desert in the next few months in connection with my legal work in sustainable energy development, and I look forward to taking advantage of that time to further explore Bahawalpur and deepen our relationships with the artisans there.
By Shannon Grewer
(Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and not necessarily of Victoria Road.)
First image credit: A Nawab of Bahawalpur, with their Ministers and Generals
Photo By Saeed Akhtar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons