Born and raised in Kashmir, Raka had only memories of her homeland when she left it in 1990. A supporting family helped her build a life in an alien land, but the longing for Kashmir never ebbed. She is a regular visitor now, and takes pride in her roots which she has kept alive.

Excerpts from an interaction with Rajesh Prothi.

What is your professional qualification?
I am a post-graduate in Marketing and am currently working as Director, Marketing with an American Multinational.

rakaYou were born and grew up in Srinagar. When did you move and how did you adjust to a different culture? Tell us about the difficulties you faced.
I was born in Srinagar and I spent by early years there. We moved in the year 1990 – due to militancy. The initial period was very tough – starting our lives from a scratch – but I am blessed to have the family who eased the transition. Education and career was given the priority.

To start our life is Delhi was very difficult – while it is a great place, great schools, great exposure – but it was culturally different from Kashmir – so it took a while to adjust, not to forget the extreme temperature.

Do you visit your homeland?
I visited Kashmir after a gap of 18 years in 2008. Now I visit it every six months. How can I stay away from Tul Mul?

What you remember most about Kashmir?
I have super memories of my initial years there – be it my school – Presentation Convent, be it the snow, be it playing with my dogs, be it visiting my mom and dad at Radio Station (Radio Kashmir Sringar –AIR) – everything about that place was so special.

Growing up with my whole family together was just terrific. Sunday noisy cricket sessions with the cousins or a quiet evening studying with parents. I miss it all.

How do you keep the Kashmiri culture alive at home?
Language, food, festivals, it is all intact at home and not to forget the khutambad, the carpets and the shawls.

What is your take on the Kashmiri language?
Oh I love it and I can speak it fluently. I am proud of it and you will catch me quite often getting excited about meeting fellow Kashmiris and speaking to them in our language. It also helps to do my secret little talk with family at a huge gatherings!!

What is the time period of their life in Kashmir that your relatives and friends talk about most?
My elders – all of them have fond memories about Kashmir (barring the period 1989/1990). They always talk about the extraordinary love and brotherhood Kashmiris had for each other, going beyond religion. They always highlight the respect for women and ‘lihaaz” of the elders, which they proudly claim is alive only in Kashmiris.

What cultural changes have you witnessed amongst Kashmiris?
What infuriates me most is that Kashmiri’s (living outside Kashmir) don’t take pride in their language and customs anymore. While I understand that things will change and they should, things will evolve and rightly so – but to forget out mother tongue is unpardonable  – Why?

I don’t think I have changed much – my food habits – batta and rogan josh, my language, my obsession for shawls and carpets has only become stronger over time and I am proud of it.

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