THE STORY OF A NEW DAWN
Myra Wani, a 24 year old woman from the far flung area of Tangdhar (Kashmir) was born in a conservative Kashmiri family in the year 1997, the area was severely infested with militancy; thus, forcing her Abbu to send her to New Delhi with her uncle, lest she be taken away by militants and something unworthy happen to her. She completed her education from Delhi University. Even though she lived outside the State for most of her life, she had an innate sense of belonging to Kashmir and the Kashmiri culture thanks to her strong belief and traditional setup at her uncle’s home in Delhi.
It so happened that when Myra was visiting her native place, on the way to Kupwara, she saw a young Kashmiri boy flaunting a white T-shirt which had ‘Union Jack’ printed on it. Normally she would not have even had a second glance. But that day, the image of the boy with that print stood out. This was the turning point in her life.
This thought was pestering her, for her entire life living in New Delhi she was always longing to be in her hometown, the amount of satisfaction and nostalgia she felt while flying to Kashmir was something which changed her life. Life in New Delhi was great but it always came with a lot of sacrifice of leaving her family behind. The memories were nearing to fade and she had to come back now, but the sight of that young boy flaunting a foreign flag on his T-shirt was disheartening and she decided to stay in Kashmir and do something to make her Kashmir famous. Being a proud Kashmiri, she wondered why no products that promoted Kashmir and Kashmiri culture existed. This was when the idea behind Riwaayat * was born.
After an extensive research for two years, and consulting her college mates, she decided to work on traditional handicrafts and apparels. The brand Riwaayat was supposed to be the only online brand that would offer contemporary clothing and accessories that would let people show off their Kashmiri pride. Myra decided to put a tagline ‘Made in India for Kashmir’ in each of her product which was dedicated to Make in India initiative of the Govt and put a sense of belonging.
Myra finally had the chance to dedicate time to work on Riwaayat when she returned from New Delhi, chalk out the concept and develop a working model. Along with her best friend Naina, who was already working for a multi-national company, she established the brand’s identity. Originally the concept only had patriotic products but later on they decided to diversify and include items with a humorous angle.
For her, the aim of this exercise was to enable Kashmiris to express themselves while promoting graphic design and supporting social causes. She was aware about the limited opportunities in Kashmir which, reminded her about one of her cousins, who was a talented artist. Back in 1990s when comic books and board games were difficult to come by in Kashmir, he would make his own at home by recycling cardboard and other items. But he didn’t receive support from his family to pursue art and eventually had to give up on his passion. At Riwaayat they invited talented artists and graphic designers from Kashmir to join their team and provided a platform to the budding artists for showcasing their art to the world so that they don’t have to give up on their passion.
The first and foremost thing was designing. For that she brought in her childhood friend and graphic designer Garima Sen, who helped develop the logo and designs. Myra was also able to rope in local organisations working for rural population of Kashmir to develop some of their first designs. Primary focus of the company was to provide opportunity to the Kashmiri Youth and develop Kashmir as a brand to flourish throughout the globe, thus reaching out to millions of Kashmiris who are away from home and away from the country, so that they don’t miss their homeland and proudly own authentic Kashmiri products.
The company could not afford to just stay in the hinterland and offline stores, it was imperative to take a leap towards digitisation so that Riwaayat does not lag behind in the ever changing world of Digital India, it will be noteworthy to mention that the Company could flourish with the help of various developmental schemes launched by the Government of India to uplift such small scale industries in the region.
Such initiatives are a huge motivation for the youth, Myra says and I quote “success of my story lies in the hearts of Kashmiri people, if they are satisfied outside the country, I will cherish the success which would touch their hearts. I hope this initiative brings prosperity in the region and further motivates my young brothers and sisters of Kashmir to be fearless and pursue their passion”.
Myra has ensured to put a portion of the profit in raising awareness and uplifting small scale industries in Kashmir. She truly has been the epitome of true Kashmiri spirit and women empowerment not only in Kashmir but in the entire country. There were lot of hiccups in the initial phase, starting from monetary problems to the administrative hassles but she never backed off and continued to fight for her passion.
*Riwaayat : Tradition