As we move into the 2nd week of our celebration of the spirit of women of Kashmiri origin, we acknowledge six more women who, despite many odds, decided to stand firm and make their own place in society. They have set an example and we are sure many will follow the path laid down by them…
Mantasha Binti Rashid, Kashmir Administrative Service Officer, Albany, USA
A rebel of sorts, who is not willing to let go of the importance a woman deserves in our society. Currently, on a Fulbright Fellowship in the US, she is studying ‘Women’s Studies with a concentration in Policy’.
“Our society is conservative and follows traditions and customs without questioning them in most cases, and most of them collide with educated, brave and thoughtful women”, says Mantasha.
As a multi-faceted person, she has been involved in social welfare with a non-profit organization. She has also done some work with a Srinagar-based local media organization before cracking State Civil Service (KAS) exams.
She is a known face in the Kashmir as an anchor of a TV show on Doordarshan Kashmir ‘Sitaroon Sey Aagey”. She completed her Masters in Social Welfare from the University of Kashmir.
An avid reader of non-fiction and fiction based on socio-political issues, she wants to read more, learn more, debate more and take life as it comes. Her goal in life is to create a space to help women who are facing difficulties, especially in Kashmir. She fought her own battle to create a niche to speak up right from her home, many a times, which she believes all women must do. She loves to talk in Kashmiri and listen to music besides spread and converse about the Kashmiri ethos of syncretism and sufism.
“The only wish I have is that I can go back to teaching and write about Sufi-rishi culture of the valley. We are badly losing our Sufi-rishi culture. If we can only revive it,” says Mantasha.
New Delhi-based Aarti is someone who does not make any effort to keep the culture of Kashmir alive. It is the culture of Kashmir, which keeps on rejuvenating her. “I am afflicted with a certain syndrome; call it homesickness or nostalgia or Kashmir-mania or whatever you like. Perhaps, I am not the only one suffering from it, perhaps many among the displaced Kashmiris behave exactly the way I do,” says Aarti.
Mehjoor’s ‘kati chukh nund banay’ sung by Kailash Mehra or Rajinder Kachroo’s ‘harmukh bar tal’ or both on the repeat mode while reading Stein’s Rajtarangini or Abhinavgupta’s Shaiva philosophy or Abdul Ahad Zargar’s poetry have become part of her life in Delhi.
Currently, she is a Senior Assistant Editor with The Times of India handling news selection, editing, writing and coordination for the online edition of the publication. A ‘Times Aspire’ award winner and a ‘WISCOMP’ fellowship awardee, she has spent almost seven years reporting from Kashmir on various aspects of politics and the impact of unrest on the social life of the State.
‘Aspire well and aspire high’ is what she believes in and what she suggests to the next generation of Kashmiris. “It is not only important to desire a virtuous goal but it is equally important to choose the righteous path. Once you have chosen, chase your dream and do not let anyone come in your way. Do not let your family or society decide for you. Do not hold yourself back just because most people around you think differently. Also, think logically and rationally but remain compassionate and humanistic in both personal and public life,” says Aarti.
Pearl Khan, Kashmiri Kitchen, Entrepreneur, Gurgaon, Haryana
Her claim to fame is that recently she was asked to host a Kashmiri dinner for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Naval Chief of 56 countries at a congregation of 850 people on the occasion of ‘International Fleet Review’ at Vishakhapatnam. It was quite a challenging task, which Pearl did not hesitate to take head on. More-so in a gathering where people present were not aware of Kashmiri cuisine or the diverse variety and flavors of Kashmiri cuisine, she was able to catapult Kashmir to a new level all together in one stroke.
Born and brought up in quaint Kashmir, Pearl completed her education in Delhi, which culminated in an MBA degree. After a career in public relations for several years, handling few international and national brands she decided to call it a day. With her experimental nature and love to learn more and experiment with new things she ended up with an exclusive Kashmiri cuisine restaurant ‘Kashmiri Kitchen’. She took this step with the active support of her mother, who came forward to support her in this new venture. In a short span of time, ‘Kashmir Kitchen’ has won several accolades including the ‘TimesCity’ & ‘HT City’ awards and has been recommended by CondeNast Traveler as among NCR’s 50 best meals.
Currently, she is learning classical sangeet along with piano lessons.
A certified scuba diver and a sailor Pearl is a passionate traveler who has a keen interest in spiritual psychology. She is currently conducting workshops on inner transformation that focuses on individual empowerment and authenticity. “I hope to conduct these workshops in Kashmir in the near future. My belief is that all the answers to our problems lie within us,” says Pearl.
Aasha Sudan, Manager, Picsdream, New Delhi
After finishing her schooling from Mallinson Girls School, Srinagar, she went on to join Woman’s Government College there. She graduated in Home Science. A visit to Delhi in 1990s turned out to be a one-way ticket for Aasha. Due to turmoil in the Valley, she never got a chance to visit her home. She is still longing for an opportunity to go back to her home, which she left long time back. All what is left are the fond memories from the days gone by and some very close friends who are either scattered across the country and some who still live and work in Srinagar. She tries to keep in touch.
In Delhi, she pursued her studies in a vertical, which she had never thought to follow. She learned computers from NIIT. This was followed by a job in a startup company, Touchstone Sytems as a graphic designer. After a bit of job-hopping and a long break, currently, she is working for www.picsdream.com at New Delhi.
While her lifestyle has undergone a noticeable change, she still holds on to the Kashmir in her through her cooking and the tradition that her family used to follow while in Srinagar. “I am totally into the essence of Kashmirayt. I try being like a true Kashmiri that is ‘welcoming’, ‘warm’ and ‘hospitable’ and of course ‘tolerant’ and ‘respectable’ to any religion,” says Aasha.
Tabeenah Anjum Qureshi, Photographer, Jaipur
A mountain soul wandering in the desert she hails from Kashmir and is living in Rajasthan for over past seven years. She did her Master in Mass Communications and Journalism from Center for Mass Communication, University of Rajasthan (Jaipur) followed by a PhD.
Only child of her parents who are more like friends to her and have always been a supportive factor, constantly motivating her to learn new things. Her childhood passion for photography became a reality due to her parents support. A gift from her father the first camera and her mothers constant interpretations of her pictures has resulted in Tabeenah becoming the recipient of 4th National Photography Award, by the Photo Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.
After chasing her hobby seriously, she won two awards in two consecutive years at Jaipur Art Festival and won best photo award at Jaipur international Photo Festival. She has also displayed her photographs in four group shows held at different Art Galleries of Jaipur. She is the first photographer from Rajasthan and Kashmir to have received this prestigious award. Apart from exhibiting her work, she loves to teach and curate photography exhibitions.
She loves to travel along with her camera. As a photographer, her preference remains street photography, heritage, and photo stories – clicking women through veils, Old Shrines of Kashmir and autumn season. Talking about the culture of Kashmir Tabeenah says “our culture is woven intricately ‘Heyrath’ which is a beautiful example of such inter-culture practices. We must read old literature about Kashmir, mystics of Lalla Ded and sufi saints to understand it better”.
Nymphea Wali, Principal, Polytechnic Institute, Gujrat
Hailing from a middle-class Kashmiri family in Srinagar, She studied at Woodland and National High school. This was followed by Masters in Electronics and Communication from Ajmer with specialization in ‘Core Electronics and trouble shooting’.
With over twenty-four years of technical work experience at various levels with brands like Videocon International and BEPL India, she is currently the Principal of ‘Polytechnic Institute, Gujarat’ affiliated to Gujarat Technological University.
Mother of two daughters; both to be MEDICOS soon, Nymphea loves to sing and listen to music particularly old songs. Although married into a non Kashmiri family, she is proud that her Kids can speak fluent Kashmiri. She is a great at cooking authentic Kashmiri food “I love to cook food like nadru, haak, Dam aloo, Rajma ,Gojgee etc and my kids are crazy about it, they can eat Kashmiri food everyday without even asking for anything else,” Nymphia said.
She is also a Life Member of Institute of Engineers, Calcutta. As part of the social responsibility, Nymphea works as an executive committee member in ‘Sadhu Vaswani Trust’ looking after the working and functioning of academic institutions coming under the trust.
Talking about the Kashmir and Kashmiri culture, she is very much connected with her roots, be it conversing in Kashmiri language or to attend Kashmiri social gatherings at local level. “As a kashmiri pandit girl in the 1980’s era I have passed each day with fear, stress, worries and tension always thinking and trying to protect ourselves against any untoward incident,” she added.
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