Part 5 of 5
In the last of the series celebrating the spirit of the Women of Kashmiri Origin, we present six such women, who professionally can’t be ignored. They have evolved with whatever tasks they have taken up. The factor which is connecting all of them are not just what they have learned in their professional life, but their efforts to stay close to their roots – Kashmir.
Shefali Razdan Duggal, Politics USA
With her roots in Haba Kadal, Sringar, where her parents grew up, she was born in Hardwar, Uttar Pradesh. In her 40s she is the only woman of Kashmiri origin who has been called as the most powerful woman in California. Shefali is a member of the Democratic National Committee’s National Finance Committee, a Co-Chair for the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum, a Presidential Appointee (President Barack Obama) to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Senior Advisor for South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), the list is long.
Intrigued with politics at an early age, she did B.S. in Mass Communication/Minor in Political Science from Miami University in 1993 and M.A. in Political Communication from New York University in 1996. Her education and her desire to be in politics made her one of the top fundraisers for President Barack Obama. “Now I am looking forward to being very active in Secretary Hillary Clinton’s (hopeful) presidential aspirations,” she says.
Being a Kashmiri is one thing she would like to pass on to her kids. “I have already told my daughter that she will be getting the Dejhore piercing in a few years time,” she says. Her visit to Kashmir till late 1980s, her understanding of the Kashmiri language is 100 percent, unlike many others who are much closer to the Valley. She is keeping Kashmir alive at home with regular interaction in US with other from the Valley.
In 2011, she become the first woman of Kashmiri origin to have won ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’ for her 2nd book, a collection of poetry “Na Thsay No Aks” (Neither Shadow, Nor Reflections) she wrote in 2009. Same work had also won her the inaugural ‘Tagore Literature Award’ in 2009.
She grew up under the wings of her father, a doctor, and her elder brother, Shafi Shafaie, a known radio artist and a writer. Though her father wanted his daughter to be a doctor like him. She was more of a language person. By the age of 10, she had familiarized herself with the works of Galib, Mir, Laladed, Habakhatoon and Rasool Mir. “I was fortunate enough to have got the support of both my parents and my husband’s families,” she says. Her husband Zaffar Mehraj is the one responsible for presenting her works to the world for which she is much appreciative.
After completing her master’s in Kashmiri language from the University of Kashmir. She opted for a diploma in literature. A teacher by profession Naseem cherishes Kashmiri poetry and the works of Rehman Rahi (he being her teacher) and Rafiq Raaz to name a few.
“It is good to be modern, but one should not forget the roots. Language is the only one binding force, which enables cultures to survive. I converse with my grand children in Kashmiri and sing them Kashmiri songs, “ she says.
Shereen Bhan, Managing Editor CNBC-TV18
Lingering, yet wonderful memories are engraved somewhere in her mind. The vacations in the Kashmir with her grandparents and the fragrance of the flavors of Kashmiri cuisine are hard to forget. The crackling sound of biting into piping hot nadir monje and the memories of impromptu picnics at Chashme Shahi, Dachigam, Pahalgam & Gulmarg. Experiencing spiritual high at Shankarcharya temple. This is what Shereen is, besides being Managing Editor at CNBC-TV18.
A graduate in Philosophy from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, she did her Post Graduation in Communication Studies from the University of Pune, before starting her career as a news-researcher for Karan Thapar’s production house – Infotainment Television. Next stop was at UTV, where she produced shows like ‘We the People” for Star TV and ‘Line of Fire’ for SAB TV. Currently she is heading CNBC-TV18 and anchoring couple of famous shows for the Channel, besides managing the attention she keeps on getting in terms of recognitions. ‘Woman of the Year Award” by FICCI in 2005, ‘Young Global Leader of 2009’ by the World Economic Forum, ‘Best Anchor-English’ in ENBA 2013.
Besides hard core business, the other side of Shereen has resulted in getting featured in “20 Beautiful Faces -2005’ by Women’s magazine – Femina, ’50 Most Beautiful Women’ in Vogue magazine – 2008 and making it on cover page of Verve magazine – 2008.
For what she has been able to achieve, she gives credit to the some very strong Kashmiri women and her family, which always believed in treating women as equals.
The only weak spot in her being is; her comfort level with her mother tongue. “Sadly, I am not very good and I do wish I was better. I hope to make more of an effort in the future, but for now I can say ‘Ratsena chu tagan’, she says.
Monika Raina, Scientist, Bangalore
She has some beautiful and mesmerizing early child hood memories in Kashmir, enjoying snowfall, making of a snowman and sprinkling water on her face. The memories from the past, the early childhood years in Kashmir, she misses them all. She has so many things to talk about Kashmir and its natural beauty, it seems to be a never ending story.
Monika did her schooling from New Light Public School, Srinagar till her 4th standard and Kendriya Vidyalaya, Gandhi Nagar, Jammu till her 12th. She shifted to Maharashtra for further education and joined Government College of Pharmacy, Amravati, Maharashtra for her Bachelors, which was followed by MSc in Bioinformatics and PhD in Biotechnology from the University of Pune and UICT.
Currently she is working as a Senior Research Investigator at Syngene International, Bangalore.
Proud of her roots, rich culture and heritage, she constantly keeps on shifting through the history of Kashmir. “To keep Kashmir alive in our lives, I Communicate in my mother tongue with all my family, friends and colleague who belong to Kashmir,” she says.
Hina Shafi Bhat, Politics , Srinagar
Being part of the medical fraternity was never on top of her career list. She was more inclined towards defense service. But her claim to fame is that she become the Muslim face of Bhartya Janta Party in Kashmir, something like out of this world phenomenon.
While, her initial schooling was done at Presentation Convent, Srinagar (till 7th Standard), she completed her schooling from J.D. Tytler, New Delhi. This was followed by B.D.s from Dr. D.Y. Patil Dental College, Pune.
After practicing her Medical profession, she could not hold back the call of her destiny to follow the footsteps of her father. “Since my childhood, I have seen my family, especially my father working for the people of Kashmir. So there was always an inclination to do something more, something thing different for the people,” she says.
She has quit a soft corner for the women of Kashmir, who she opinions are strong and intelligent, just waiting for the right encouragement to make to the top in any profession. “Women by nature are epitome of sincerity, we can have been contributing to the society for centuries and will continue doing so in future also,” she says.
Besides the new social calling, she likes to spend time with her son talking about studies and culture of Kashmir.
Meenakshi Koul Prothi, Kumon India, New Delhi
Memories from the days gone by are as fresh as possible – the yellow pages of the book ‘Rajtrangani’, a part of the house hold treasure, now lost to time. Wooden partition with mica, the carved wooden celling of a five storeyed house, she used to call home are still there in her mind. She still dreams of Balhama, a village where her mother had grown up.
After leaving her home in the early 1990s, she moved to Jammu, before finding her destiny in New Delhi. The initial day were a bit of a struggle, but soon she found her anchor. “It was from my aunt Uma Kaul’s house in Bengali Market, I took my first step towards the professional world,” she says.
During her professional journey she put on many hats – from marketing function for a publications to journalism. From a banking job to media relations assignment. Currently she is working for Kumon India, true to her nature, here she has donned many hats, from heading the franchises operations, seminars & instruction division, to being a part of the Human Capital Development & Training division.
When it comes to her connects with Kashmir, her home is full with books on Kashmir and a collection of Kashmir Philately and many other collectables. All Kashmiri festivals are acknowledged cutting across religions. Her efforts to talk to her family in Kashmiri is constant, the taste of food remains as Kashmiri as possible.
She has visited places like Lolab Valley, Kangan, Baramulla, Uri, Khag, Bandipora and many such places around the Valley. But the irony of her life that she still has to tread the path to Chashmi Shai & Pari Mahal.
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