In her early 20s, Ahra Syed, a pass-out from Mallinsion Girls School, Srinagar, while pursuing law studies, is trying to make a mark in the education system of Kashmir Valley by setting up a business, which opens doors for the students of Kashmir to look outside the Valley to pursue their studies. In her interaction with www.TheCherryTree.in, she speaks about the education system of the Kashmir and her efforts, her hopes, besides other things which connect her to her roots.
Excerpts from an interaction with Rajesh Prothi
How connected are you to your place of birth. More so, in such times when many from your age group would be looking beyond the Valley for their career?
Had I not been connected to the place of my birth and grounded to my roots. I would have concentrated on myself and would have moved out of Kashmir long time back. It is connect with my roots that I not only saw a gap in the educational system in the Valley vis-à-vis to what is happening internationally, that I understood that quality education is very important and it can bring a positive change in every sphere of life.
At such a young age, how did you come across the idea of creating a business venture?
Keeping in view the Kashmir situation, it was challenging for me to come out at the age of 19 and do something new in such conservative society. Interestingly it started when I desired to have a bike, which was ridiculously criticized by all. This was when I was still in school, everyone came to know about it I was nick named as ‘biker girl’. At times my close friends, even teased by my teachers, but this not in anyway stopped me from taking my steps forward. So I had in me what it take to venture into business.
Education was not you’re first calling though. What was your first entrepreneurial statement?
Though challenging, I started my entrepreneurial streak online. I went online with my brand “STYLE STREET BY AHRA”. This turned out to be quite an adventure in all-positive sense. The response was good. I had buyers coming from across the country. This brand cherishes a customer base of ten thousand. My learning from this venture was that if your give quality and service, there will always be an opportunity.
Unfortunately, the Valley of Kashmir has been witnessing shutdowns quite often. The students, who are the future of any society, are the worst hit. What do you think should be done so that the education process does not get hampered?
Due to prevailing situation in Kashmir education is worst hit. This has been happening for past three decades. To top it, nothing new is available in Kashmir for the student in term so education. Those who want to pursue higher education either in the country or abroad fall prey to people who cheat them and elude with their hard earned savings. Probably, all this added up inside me and I ventured out to provide services to people through safe and secured mode, so to enable them to complete their studies and pursue their goals and serve the society. To come to the point, support to such students is very much required.
There are many measures which can be taken to safe guard the interests of the students by offering them honest and qualitative counseling. This is one part, besides this, the basic infrastructure in terms of modernisation needs to be addressed.
What efforts do you make to preserve the culture of Kashmir?
World has become a global village where you need to adopt certain changes vis-a-vis the development otherwise you will be left behind. While adopting and adjusting in the modern world, there is always a chance that we distance ourselves from our basic way of living, our culture. On my part, I try my best to carry on the legacy of our cultural heritage in terms of language, respect for other, hospitality and many small things, which are part of our daily life.
How supportive is your family in your pursuit for your this venture?
I come from a literate and scholarly family. My ancestors have been connected with education and learning. The main person in my life was my grandfather, he headed the finance department of Jammu and Kashmir Government, he authored sixteen books. His had a vision, which did not accommodate any gender basis, supported social service. With such a family background, it is needless to add here that my family gave me freedom to opt for a career which could also connect with our society.
What are you other interests, apart from your professional career?
I like eating and preparing different cuisine, but due to paucity of time I do not disturb my focus of servicing the society to the best of my ability and knowledge.
What is your take on the true Kashmiri culture? How is it different from the early 1980s, when various communities co-existed in the Valley of Kashmir?
Valley is a place of sufi saints and peace and prosperity, going back into history, during the pre and post independence, when riots were a routine affair, there was not a single report of rioting from Kashmir and Mahatma Gandhi had said “ I see a ray of hope in Kashmir”.
So frankly speaking Kashmir has been a role model for the rest of the country for all times. But some unfortunate incidents in the past have put a question mark. But nothing is permanent, every thing will be fine, times a good healer.