Once upon a time, it was very rare to find Kashmiri girls managing eateries or taking up positions where public interaction was the only job profile. Times have changed, and so has the thinking. Today, Kashmiri girls no longer restrict themselves to back-office jobs. They have taken a step forward and have decided to spread their wings. Two such Kashmiri girls have been managing an eatery at the departure lounge of Srinagar International Airport. One of them is Fahmeda Akhter. With a hint of a smile, soft spoken, Fahmeda is very thoughtful and economical with her words. Not once during the conversation did she ignore the customers wanting a cup of tea or a bite to eat.
Excerpts from an interaction with Rajesh Prothi.
Where do you come from?
F. Akhter: I hail from a small village in District Baramulla, where mostly people are engaged in farming. My father is a farmer like many others from this village. My mother is a housewife and my younger brother is also involved in our family work of farming. In other words, I can proudly say that I belong to a typical Kashmiri village family.
At such a young age, what was the reason for leaving your home?
F. Akhter: Being the elder in the family, I always wanted to do my bit by either self-sustaining or by contributing toward the household. To tell you the truth, the financial situation back home required me to work. Once this job happened, there was no looking back for me.
What about your studies?
F. Akhter: I had completed my high school (12th standard) before I came to Srinagar. Now, I am pursuing further studies from Nawakadal Women’s College. I am taking it slow, but nevertheless, I am following up with my studies.
What are your work schedules and do you get time to study?
F. Akhter: This is quite a demanding job. We have to be here much before the flow of flights starts taking off from this airport till the last flight towards evening. Thankfully, for now, we do not have night flights. We get a day off in a week on rotation. My accommodation, which is close to the airport, allows me to squeeze in some time for studies.
How do you find your work?
F. Akhter: It is a tough job, no doubt about it. But, nevertheless, it is something, which is giving us a living and an opportunity to serve people. Besides, standing at the counter for the whole day, we have to also take care of the inventory, so that we do not run out of required stock or supplies. And, make sure the snacks are fresh and many other things.
Being a woman, how comfortable are you in meeting people from various States of India and the world?
F. Akhter: It is quite an experience. I believe we can get such an experience in this kind of a job only. On the job, I get to interact with so many people from across the world. I get to know about their experience of Kashmir and the comparisons they make with other destinations they have had visited earlier.
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