Celebrating the Spirit of Women of Kashmiri origin:2015
I am the fragrance that has carried the generations from the times unknown.
I am like an icicle, obvious & stunning, yet not perpetual.
I am like a dewdrop on a grass strand, and a rising sun.
I am as pristine, as I could be.
Flowing with time, never taking a breath for myself, as I have so much to accomplish.
I am the reason for the civilizations, yet seldom have I been acknowledged.
But I have not cared for applauds, as I am much beyond things of this world.
For me, being the cradle is good enough.
I know my powers, I know my reach.
I know my faith, I know my God,
I am like a bird, gliding with the winds.
But behold, I am the wind. Unstoppable, uncontrollable.
I have my own mind, my own contradictions.
My own destiny, my own goals.
I am the poet, I am the poetry,
I am the story-teller, I am the story,
I am the riddle, I am the mystery.
I am a rose petal for those I care, a rock for those who dare.
I have the depth of the oceans and reach of the summits.
While I am the beginning, I am the not the end.
I am a woman.
I am a woman of Kashmiri Origin
Rajesh Prothi, Founder & Cheif Editor, TheCherryTree.in
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.
Mahmeet 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.
Farah 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.
Alina Shah, Hotel Management, Switzerland
Born in Srinagar, Alina grew up in not so conserative atmosphere which is quite prevlant in Kashmir. She was one of the very few fortunate persons who was exposed to multicultural society which offered her an opportunity where there was much wider range of career possibilities then she would have got if her family would have stayed in the Valley. Dubai City was magic for her as far as cultural mix is concerned. She is of the opinion that Dubai gave an opportunitty to see and understand similarities and differences between various cultures. “The biggest advantage for me have been my parents, who have been very supportive and encouraging”, she says. This has resulted in much confident Alina who says that there is much to learn from the individuals also than only from what is being taught in the school. Currently, she is persuing Hotel Management in Switzerland. Besides, her course she likes to travel to understand the cluture and traditions of a new place, this gives her a high in terms of enriched knowledge. For the women of Kashmir she says, : It all begins & ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you, if only you allow it. Don’t give up. If possible, remember all the people you have to prove wrong.”
Renu Fotedar, Transpersonal Counsellor, Switzerland
Renu has come a long way since she moved away from Kashmir of 1990s. After trying her hand at ventures, which turned out be successful, she could not avoid what was destined for her. With Kashmiris already on a high dose of spirtilusim, it turned out that wearing a cloak of “Transpersonal Counselor” was as easy as it could be. As a young Kashmiri girl, she found her interest in Kashmiri Shaivism and Greek Mythology and frequent visit to Dargaahs & the Church next to Women’s College just a tool of enchancement for her towards what she is doing today. Probably, the only one from her generation who is a qualified transpersonal counselor with a background of psychotherapy, transpersonal psychology, neuro-linguistic program and a executive & life coach.
The important part of her journey has been her ability to cherish the memories of her home, back in Srinagar. “It is effortless in me. Language, food, literature, mythology, rituals, sense of humor………all of this is embedded in my DNA. In that sense you can call me a real BATIEN, living & working across the continents, yet bringing forward feminine essence of Kashmir where ever I go,” says Renu.
Adiba Amin, PR Professional, New Delhi
It was a battle of professions, Medical verses Media. Both having the social connect. Both having the scope to make it big. While the writing on walls of her study room at home was ‘Doctor Adiba, coming from a business family, media was quite a far-fetched idea for the whole family. She was supposed to be joining the medical college. But as it was, being the daughter of the family, she had her way. “My grand mother used to call me doctor sabhia. But being the daughter, I had my way. My parents let me walk my path, though they wanted me to become a doctor,” she says.
Adiba’s first serious encounter with media started with anchoring for Doordarshan Srinagar, But that was in the past.
After completing her schooling from Mallinson Girls secondary school, Srinagar, she opted for media over medicine and graduated from Government Degree College, Baramulla in Mass Communication and Multimedia Production. This was followed by masters in Mass communication and Journalism from IIMM, Delhi.
“I still remember the walls of my study room where my name was written with the title of doctor everywhere”. Adiba recalls.
After learning different things in journalism, she chose Public Relations (PR) as her career. Today she specializes in lifestyle industry and is working as Senior Account Executive at Kaizzen Communications.
She has a vision of opening her own PR firm in Kashmir
Sumaksha Moughal, Banker (Punjab National Bank), Delhi
A banker by profession with a degree in Law and a Post Graduate degree in the Human Rights has a very unique hobby – spend time innovatiely with the family. This normally includes karaoke session of American Classics, visiting sports complex or going out for shopping for a movie with the family. The icing on the cake however is , conversing in Kashmiri with her kids and singing Kashmiri folks songs to them. This is besides celebrating all the Kashmiri festivals along with family and friends.
Sumaksha’s first choice was medicine as a career. However, the banking exam given just for fun ended in a job, twenty eight years of no regrets! The job with the Bank (Punjab National Bank), gave her endless amount of exposure in public dealing. This job not only made her financially independent, a stronger and a more confident person, but also taught her how to excel in anger management.
“Kashmiri women have always had and still have the potent to succeed in any and every field they wish to purse. However, given the fact that what has happened during the last couple of years, I am of a very strong view that the Kashmiri youth is the future of Kashmiri community and they will have to not only preserve the culture but will also have to make sure that ‘Kashmiriyat’ survies, ” she says.
Ayesha Kuttay, Banker (HDFC), Srinagar,Kashmir
In 2013, she became the first Woman to be announced as a ‘Cluster Head’ not only for the Bank she works for, but in the entire State of Jammu & Kashmir. A student of Presentation Convent, Srinagar till 8th standard, Ayesha did her 12th standard from Queen Mary’s Girl School, Delhi. She graduated in Political Science honours from Hindu College, Delhi before joining the Delhi Law Faculty for couple of months before opting out for Post Graduation Diploma In Management from Amity Business School.
“My parents did not take my decision to quit science subjects for commerce well. The wanted me to become a doctor. But that is very much in the past. Now all are very happy with what I am doing,” says Ayesha.
Ayesha was selected by HDFC Bank in a campus recruitment drive and she was posted at the Bank’s Connaught Place branch. No wonder, she loves Delhi and it feels like her second home.
Yasmin Ali, Travel Industry, Srinagar
A student of Presentation Convent, Srinagar and a Post Graduate (MBA) from Cardiff Business School, United Kingdom is credited with the first Boutique Guest House in the Valley of Kashmir.
After spending a good number of years in UK and Dubai, Yasmin ended up back in India with a job in Airtel in their Human Resources Department. Later she moved over the HDFC Bank as a manager. With over eight years of working experience with her, she could not resist the call of the Valley.
Living in the picturesque land and quaint surroundings it was inevitable for her to imbibe the love for artistic interiors. As a child her love for nature evolved on adventurous trekking trips she took with her family and friends and it did play a role in her decision to go back home. “My love for entertaining and making friends was quite obvious to all who knew me. I realised that while I enjoyed the experience of working in the corporate world my heart was still in Kashmir. So I just took the leap of faith and also I just wanted the world to experience the beauty and warmth of this wonderful land of mine,” she says.
In her decision to enter into the business of travel industry in Kashmir, there was an element of risk. But it did not hamper her for two reasons – the love for the Vale and the support of her parents.
Safina Nabi, PR Professional, New Delhi
Is it men world? No, not for Safina, she has a passion to walk in the domains associated with men only, learn their art, make a mark and move on to take the next challenge. From the location known more for saffron and Kashmiri bread (Sheermaal), she grew up in a conservative society which still covertly supports structural discriminations. While in 8th Standard, while cycling she chanced upon a group of boys donning black dresses practicing martial arts. On enquiry, she was told it is not for girls. Next, she was a part of couple of State and six National competitions and had four Gold medals under her belt – all in martial arts.
From writing scripts for the current affairs program ‘Sheherbeen’ of Radio Kashmir, Srinagar, she moved to the casting and public relations domian for Bollywood movies like ‘ Heropanti’, ‘Phantom’ and ‘Haider’. Her hard work during the filming of Haider was acknowledged by the Director Vishal Bharadwaj.
A post graduate from the Masss Communications Department of Kashmir University, she likes to spend time watching movies, is a avid reader with authors like Orhan Pamuk, Paulo Coelho and Simone de Beauvior being her favorites. Currently she is exploring the world of media relations & social media at New Delhi-based Communications Agency, AbsoluteFactor.
Namrata Wakhloo, HR, New Delhi
She was the one, who was born to start a new thought process, a new trend in her family, which is bound to replicate over generations. She became the first girl from her family who went to a professional college. For this she credits the progressive thought of her parents.
A student of Presentation Convent High School, Srinagar, she is an engineering graduate with an MBA in marketing with a professional certification in Human Resource from the prestigious Institute, SHRM.
For the last 13 years, she has been working in the field of ‘Learning and Development’ (HR). Having worked with entities such as Reliance Infocomm, Bharti Airtel, Aircel and Benetton India, she has not just evolved as a person, but has been able to share her expertise as head of function of L&D at various levels and has also been one of the founding members of a training Academy set up by Aircel in 2011.
The biggest moment of her professional life occurred this year when Namrata was recognized and appreciated at a global level by ‘The World Women Leadership Congress & Awards’ for her work in the area of HR. “For me it was like a lifetime achievement award,” she says.
Besides, her work, she does not miss an opportunity to click candid pictures of people, places, food and random moments in life. “I also make sure that our age-old Kashmiri cultures are passed on to my children,” she says.
Andleeb Saqi, Designer, Srinagar
The quest for freedom to express and fondness for art resulted in a designer. The advantage she had was her supportive father and her fiance (now her husband). That was what she wanted, to take flight. That she did.
The first noticeable project she undertook was to twig ‘pheran’, which had been pushed to oblivion for some time, was given a new lease of life. Andleeb, in her way, rekindled the desire for ‘pheran’ once again amongest the people by giving their traditional wear with a touch of Kashmiri art and modernity. This was followed by some innovative work with motifs and reviving few old designs.
“When I started my label here people use to ask me. So you are a designer. What is your profession and what kind of work you do. It used to be so frustrating. Thankfully, that is in the past,” says Andleeb.
During the course of her work and frequent interactions with the artisans, she realised that she needs to give back to the society and in particular to this community. “ Besides being a Post Graduate in Business Entrepreneuship, which was followed by Post graduate Diploma in Garment Manufacturing & Technology, I armed myself with a Masters degree in Social Works,” she adds. She is working with ‘Save the Children’ under emergency project.
Mona Kaul, Doctor, London
Mona may have settled in London, but she longs for walks on the dried chinar leaves during the autumn months, when the whole Kashmir Valley is turned gold. The fresh blue sky after a slight drizzle and the blue Mountains, Kangri and a Shikara ride are part of her state of mind.
After finishing her schooling from Walden Public School, Srinagar and Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jammu, she joined Regional Engineering College (REC) Jammu in computer science. But that was for a while. Within a short span of three-four months she left REC for Government Medical College, Jammu. Having trained in the Maudsley Scheme and being attached to Institute of Psychiatry in London, she feels that her process of learning continues.
While in London, she makes it a point to attend all the get-togethers of Kashmiri Overseas Association. This gives her a feeling of being in Kashmir. “At home, we converse in our mother tongue & I really enjoy speaking to my toddler in Kashmiri especially the lullabies and the he loves to recite them too,” she says.
Mehvish Mushtaq, Software Developer, Srinagar
“Dial Kashmir” an android app for smartphones made it to the headlines without much effort. ‘First of its kind’ was surely not the reason. Mehvish was the sole reason for the media to get all excited. A woman, that too from the Valley? She has put many in their place and has made her point. She has proved the essence of a Kashmiri woman.
Mehvish after finishing her schooling from Mallinson Girls School, Sheikh Bagh, Srinagar, was too fascinated with technology that she opted for B.E. in Computer Science from SSM College of Engineering and Technology, Parihaspora. What had started as a fascination, resulted in “Dial Kashmir”.
“Getting information in Kashmir is quite a task. I just merged the information and the technology together and eased the availability of information”, she says. Her efforts have just made it easy for those using Android app to have the required contact information of essentials services and government departments at one place.
With technology, Mehvish has her own way of contributing towards preserving her cultural heritage. “If I can make life easier for people (both from the State and those visiting) by enabling access information easier. I think I have done my little bit”, she says.
Puja Malla, channel Head, Delhi
It is said that you can stand-up against the might of the world, but what is destined for you shall happen, whatever efforts you make. In case of Puja, it was something like this which had to happen. She wanted to become a doctor. She had the right subject and she was just scoring right. But at the time of MBBS entrance test, she fell sick with food poisoning and missed them. Instead, she landed up doing B.E.
Due to the situation of 1990s in Kashmir, Puja had to leave her school Presentation Convent, Srinagar when she was in 6th Standard to join Apeejay School, Saket, New Delhi and then Gyan Bharati School, Saket, New Delhi. She was the School Head Girl in Apeejay and won awards at school and State level in Debate and poetry recitation & writing.
But as it is said that there is always a reason behind all what happens around us. In her first year of B.E. she failed in two subjects, which turned out to be a wakeup call for her. She completed her B.E. in Electronics & Power from Nagpur University with distinction.
She began as a Sales Engineer in the Semiconductor Distribution Industry and at that time there were hardly any Lady Sales Engineer in industry in 2000. She is a trend setter. Currently she is handling the Channel Biz across India. In her present organization, she was chosen to be part of the 30 people Steering Committee of our World Wide Women Network.
She doesn’t leave any opportunity to emphasize that, I am a proud Kashmiri and try to contribute in her own little ways. She follows all the customs that are part of Kashmir.
“I continue to wear my Dhaejhoor while travelling even abroad. It attracted a lot of attention initially; people would ask me about it. Now lot of Italians, French, American, Koreans, Chinese and Taiwanese know about this piece of jewelry”. She said.
Shahana Bhat, Journalist, Srinagar
She comes from a business family, with no connections with media, yet she landed up with an assignment with an international media organization, Iran-based electronic channel, Press TV.
After graduation, she was caught between two subjects, Psychology and Journalism; her parents came to her rescue. She opted for Journalism from Kashmir University. In her 2nd semester at Kashmir University, she got the opportunity and since then she has been covering Kashmir issue for ‘Press TV’ relentlessly. “There is no denial that my dad wanted me to be a doctor but when I was selected in journalism and Psychology streams in Kashmir University, both my parents sided with me,” she says.
She likes to travel and meet people, an opportunity which her profession has given.
Culturally savvy she is of the opinion that Kashmiri culture is the identity for all those who have their roots in Kashmir. “I strongly believe that the language & the traditional songs will keep our culture vibrant and alive,” She says.
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.