Independent India over the decades has seen a revolution in way a common man in this country was perceived. However, the same did not happen in Jammu and Kashmir. Decades of militancy, Islamic radicalism and terrorism has deprived people in Jammu and Kashmir and their empowerment saw a steady decline too. In contemporary times, a Kashmir resident has been falling prey to illiteracy, alienation, heteronomy and lack of aspirations.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a home to a number of personalities who have excelled in their respective fields. From Habba Khatoon, the 16th century mystic poet to Mawya Sudan, the Jammu and Kashmir’s first female fighter pilot, these are the people who have not only carved a niche for themselves but also have paved the way for future generation of Kashmiri people, their journey has been a saga of grit, dogged determination and unflinching loyalty which has gone down to annals of Kashmir’s history and an inspiration for numerous youngsters of the valley to emulate. This write up is a tribute to such modern, brave and at times underrated personalities of Kashmir who have gone out to make a difference in their own way.
Qurat Ul Ain Masoodi founded a set up with focus on sensitive work on mental health of children in orphanages and women in highly radicalized society. Qurat hails from south kashmir’s Khrew, her father a retired government professor and mother a retired government teacher. It was her family values wherein she was encouraged to help people in distress. Qurat studied at Mallinson girls school in Srinagar and further went onto pursue engineering at SSM College. However, it was here childhood calling particularly for orphans and women that she decided to course correct. “I had taken the eighth semester exam, but I wasn’t comfortable, my heart lay elsewhere,” she says. Even though she would complete her engineering, she chose to look after under privileged children in orphanages. Qurat has since been raising and highlighting the plight of children’s who were facing abuses in some orphanages to government till the government closed all these orphanages where children were being exploited. She has started an organization named Aash (Hope), which offers free education, meals, books and uniforms to needy students. Aash, has also been working for improving the life of women from underprivileged society. She and her organization have already supported around 250 marriages from poor sections of society. Qurat through her voluntary campaign and such philanthropic activities has not only earned the respect and gratitude of Kashmiri children and women, but has also paved the way for a brighter future for the community.
Jasia Akhtar is Kashmir’s first woman cricketer to be part of Indian National Women’s camp. She belongs to Shopian district of South Kashmir. Being somewhat a child prodigy, Jasia showed immense promise and talent since her school days. In 2017 she not only brought laurels to Shopian but to the entire Jammu and Kashmir when she was selected for the Indian Senior Women’s Camp at NCA in Bangalore. Jasia had her share of challenges and problems as well, her aged father Gul Mohd Wani is a small farmer who farms apples and walnuts for a living. With meager means it was difficult for him to support his daughters dream in a family of seven. Jasia says “I promised my father that I will work hard on my cricket and don the India team colours. God is taking me closer to my dream”. Jasia plays for Rajasthan women’s team in the domestic cricket. She wants to set an example for others and convey to the world that Kashmiri women are very talented, even in these most challenging situations they are spearheading the lead in most unconventional fields for Kashmiri women including sports.
The founder of “The perfect pair by Kainaat” is a store in Srinagar that sells customized foot wears and apparels. Kainaat became a pioneer for women entrepreneurship in the field of apparel designing in whole of Kashmir. Hailing from a patriarchal society, daughter of a single mother and hospitality as education, Kainaat treaded on a path which was never considered easy for Kashmiri women. Kainaat through her designs infuses intricate traditional Kashmiri elements called “Tilla” on Kolhapuris and another footwear.
The path to Kainaat’s entrepreneurial stint and financial independence was not always smooth sailing, fraught with obstacles and social judgments in a male dominated sector especially in Kashmir, Kainaat remained determined to set up her own venture. Undeterred by constant oppositions and stereo types, she went about her dream project brick by brick and today her venture is a successful business model. Kainaat is already working with national brands and says that “Negotiations with some international brands are at advanced stage”. She further says that she is expecting a major collaboration soon. Kainaat attributes a major part of her success to social media, she says it has been a force multiplier and has made things extremely convenient for youngsters like her. Kainaat just at 23 is an asset to the society and a beacon of positive change.
A career in the Armed forces of India has long been regarded as both prestigious and rewarding. Mawya Sudan belongs to Laheri Village on the Line of control in Rajouri district, Jammu and Kashmir. Mawya in June 2021 carved a niche for herself and UT of Jammu and Kashmir when she was inducted as a fighter pilot during the combined graduation parade ceremony in Dundigal, Hyderabad. Mawya became the First female fighter pilot in history from Jammu and Kashmir. Mawya’s father is an employee of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board at Katra. She did her schooling from Carmel Convent School and later at JK Public School in Kunjwani. She being a bright student earned a government scholarship to study at MCM DAV College in Chandigarh and pursued her graduation. Mawya since her childhood was attracted towards flying machines and used to draw sketches all over the walls in her house. She was into sports also as her uncle Raj Sudan fondly recalls. Mawya has written a historically success story which will go on to inspire many women in Kashmir valley to realize their potential and work towards equality, social independence and Nation building.
Success stories are not merely limited to women alone without gender biases. Another young entrepreneur with bigger dreams and goals requiring serious recognition and praises and accolades, who has believed in his dreams and relentlessly worked to help the people of Kashmir through his small startup idea is Ubaid Nasir.
Ubaid Nasir is a 25 years “young” entrepreneur from Srinagar who has started a bicycle rental start up “Cieclo”. He said his aim is to help the people commute in overcrowded urban areas. Ubaid has completed his Engineering from the prestigious National Institute of Technology, Srinagar and has specialized in Electronics and Communication Engineering. “I used to enjoy riding my bicycle along the Boulevard route due to my passion for pedaling. One day, as I was enjoying my ride, this idea suddenly struck me. I pondered whether I may be able to provide others with comparable pleasure at a fair price,” he says. He opines that he tried renting out bicycles initially and realized that the idea is promising and immediately got to work. Cieclo is an initiative to provide mobility to residents and tourists of Kashmir and charge people on per- minute basis. Ubaid wishes to contribute his part towards practical solutions to lessen the traffic and reduce environmental pollution. He has already established several points for bicycle service and is very hopeful about the success of his new idea in coming days and has been working with dedication towards achieving his goal.
And the dreams go on ………..