Celebrating the spirit of women of Kashmiri origin:2015

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Part 2 of 5

While celebrating the month of March 2015 as a tribute to the Women of Kashmiri Origin and to celebrate their spirit of purpose, in the 2nd part of the series of five, we present six women with their roots in Kashmir, who have had a clear vision as to which path they want to tread. They shared their thoughts with us and their connect with the culture of Kashmir and of course their attempts to keep the famous ‘kashimiryat’ alive. The other common factor which all the six women of Kashmiri origin have is the support they had of their parents, especially of their fathers.

Saba safi[1]Saba Shafi, Makeup artist

In a business family with many doctors, it is but obvious that the tradition to carry on the legacy as a doctor or as a business person was bound to continue. While the odds should have been to for medical profession. But that is something that did not happen. The rebel in Saba had a different plan. To explore a different path.

With family roots in Seelu,  a village about  seven kilometers ahead of Sopore in the north of Kashmir, Saba grew up in Srinagar. With her schooling from Presentation Convent School, Srinagar, she graduated in English Literature from Delhi University’s Zakir Husain College. This was followed by a Masters Degree in Business Management and a placement in an industry which was not aligned with her educational qualifications.  She got placed in an IT and Telecom based Research Company.

“I am a very active and energetic person and each day I spent behind that computer, I felt my flame diminishing. Then one day, I just decided not to go back to my boring desk and do something that makes me happy,”  recalls Saba.  The maverick in her had woken up. She took up a course from the Illamsqua School of Make Up, London, under Moroccan, Pakistani and French instructors. It was her calling.  She probably became the first incidental ‘makeup artist’ of Kashmiri origin.

“Kashmiri women on the whole are exceptional and wherever they set foot, they shine. Earlier they were known for their beauty but now, Kashmiri women are recognised for their perseverance and creative abilities,” she said.

Today she is credited with the concept of professional makeup and styling in the Valley of Kashmir.


Anusha Dhar, Student sports girl

She has never been to Kashmir but the stories that her parents and grandparents narrate are enough for her to be fascinated about the Vale. What she has been missing about Kashmir, post the tales she hears, she catches up watching movies with reference to the Valley of Kashmir.

Anusha is fond of music and reading, but what excites her more is her passion for lawn tennis. At one point of time, she was ranked in the top 100  tennis players in the ‘under 16 category’.  Starting young, she has represented her school at the State and the National levels. Besides a couple of trophies which she has won at National level tournaments, in ICSE / ISC competitions she has won the doubles title two years in a row. Surely the first student from her school to do so.

‘While I was not born in the Valley, there is much of Kashmir to be seen at home. All thanks to my grandparents and parents,” she says.

Studing in Standard 12th at Nasr School, Hyderabad, Anusha cherishes Kashmiri food. High on her list are ‘nadr monje’, luchi and nadru. For the first two items she waits for the annual Hawan celebrations conducted by the Kashmiri Pandit Community in Hyderabad. What puts her off is her inability to speak in her mother tongue. “Most of the times my parents communicate in Kashmiri language only. So I am not left with much choice. I can confidently say that I can understand most of what  they say in Kashmiri. However, at times when they decide to say things in typical Kashmiri language, then it is all guess work,” she says.

MehmeetMahmeet Syed, Singer

What started with performances at school functions, has resulted in a professional singing career for Mahmeet. The story  of this Presentation Covent, Srinagar  pass out becomes interesting when she let go a BDS seat as her father wanted her to pursue music. But this did not stop her from getting three master degress – Masters in Journalism, Masters in Adminstration & Masters in Education.

Mahmeet has a flair for singing which she inherited from her mother who passed away when she was still young. Over time, she moved from performances at school functions to stage performances. Performance at the Tagore Hall, Srinagar was the turning point in her singing career. There after she started getting offers to exhibit her singing talent.

Coming from an English medium school which was strict about English language, Mahmeet felt deprived. Singing was the sole outlet for her during her school times.

The pain point for her is the lack of encouragment and appreciation for Kashmiri music by the Kashmiri community. “So much can be done to boost this art form, only if people from the State come forward with their genuine support,” she says.

Currently she is working on her own album.


Ayushi Dhar, Student Pianist

Ayushi started playing Piano when she was just 10 years old, which lead her to exhibit her art at various State and National level competitions. Her hard work has resulted in many awards and a lot of appreciation.  A distinction holder in Grade 7 duets (Four hands), she is preparing for a Solo Grade 8 exam in June this year (2015), which will make her eligible for a diploma in music. “ I have been playing Solo and Duet at recitals for some time now. I feel music is just like medicine, it is a therapy for relaxation without any side effcts. I desire to spread the knowledge of music,” she says.

Besides her closeness with music, Ayushi enjoys cooking and meeting new people. When it comes to Kashmir, she longs to visit her roots. “The resolution for this year is to concentrate more on my studies, music and wait for the festivities,” she says.

Just to be connected with Kashmir, she looks forward to all the festivals which are celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandit community – such as Shivratri & Navreh. The Kashmiri cuisine which are high on her list include monj haak, dum aalo and gobi. Proud of her roots in Kashmir, she is of the belief that ‘we as Kashmiris have our own history and traditions, just like a Marathi or a Gujarati does and while we should be aware of them and should be part of the celebrations, we should celebrate other traditions also.

FarahFarah Tanki, Cake Baker

In a culture where every occasion is a celebration, Farah  was presented with an opportunity to make her hobby a business venture. This is not new though, but the twist is that she loves to bake cakes and that the business she is in – the first commercial female cake baker in the Valley.  Fifth year in the cake baking business,  residing in the vicinity of the famous Mughal Garden Nishat, she owes this art to another woman, her mother.

After finishing her schooling from Presentation Convent, Srinagar, she opted for a Bachelor in Home Science from Woman’s College, Srinagar. This was followed with a Master’s in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kashmir.

The high point in her professional life was when she baked a cake for the Sringar Base of Indian Air Force for their 81st anniversary. The icing on the cake was appericiated by Omar Abdullah, the then Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir.

Five years in this business, Farah  likes to enjoy a cup of noon chai or kashmiri kehwa. “There is a world beyond becoming a doctor or taking on a government job. There are numerous opportunities and all we need is to develop a new thinking,” says Farah.


Vasundhara Kaul,  Actress & copy writer

A television commercial for Mahindra Quanto shot in Srinagar and Gulmarg in 2012 was like home coming for Vasundhara. This was her 2nd visit to the Valley. Besides shooting for the TV commercial,  fequent friendly greeting of ‘kya sa varrechuk’ and rogan josh and yakhni did connect her with her roots.

Daughter of a Kashmiri Pandit father and a Rajput mother,  at home, Kashmir is not over the horizon. “My dadi (granmother) and my father converse in Kashmiri and dumaloo, kalmi saag, peela paneer, rajma, keema, nadar yakhni, rogan josh and nodru have been a part of our meals at home. All thanks to my grandmother,’ she says.

Besides having a screen presence, she is a copywriter. With having worked with O&M, Publicis India, Redifusion Y&R and Contract Advertising, the high point of her career was when she became part of Anurag Kashyap’s film ‘Bombay Velvet’.

“The onus to be an actor may have been mine. But the courage to be one, is of my parents.  I am of the view that we have opinions and dreams and they are a woman’s best friends,” says Vasundhara.