THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 9 JULY, 2019
Humans of Kashmir
Stories that penetrate the fog
In a world where not just issues but people as well are painted in black and white, without the colours that define the human race, it becomes doubly difficult if you are from Kashmir. Hence, it is not surprising to find a large number of young people from Kashmir trying to break out of the monolith they have been crowded into, seeking now to portray the diversity that lies within every race, every community, every state, every country. There are any number of groups taking the cue from the renowned Humans of New York to form Humans of Kashmir, with stories that seek to give a face to the people who we often fail to recognise. Here are some stories from Humans of Kashmir:
MALIKA GALIB SHAH
“From a Law graduate to an entrepreneur (if I may call myself one) my journey has been marked by deviations and detours. I call it deviations and detours from the society’s perspective but for me it’s been a part of my learning curve.
A gold medalist in Law, I had the option to pursue a lucrative careen in the field but instead I opted for the Young India Fellowship at Ashoka University. What may seem to a lot of people as a personality development course, to me it was an opportunity to learn from and be exposed to ideas that I had no knowledge about, and so it did. Coming back to Kashmir and working in the social space was a conscious choice I made.
A year in Kashmir and then back I flew out to London on Chevening scholarship for a year doing my Masters in Law. I was drawn to Kashmir again after a year and what I did this time had little to do with my training in Law. I decided to follow my passion of providing organic skin care and healthcare products to the local population via the brand “MaSha by Malika”. To a lot of people my trajectory may seem odd and wavering but what motivates me is something that has motivated me to pick up Law too as a career option: my desire to help people live a better life.
Be it my work in Law and now this brand, I firmly believe that people deserve a better life. Moreso in their day-to-day living. For me food and beauty segments are a part of everyone’s life and hence, this step. My brand aims to take us back to nature, to our roots and live a chemical free life. While my career in Law continues, it hasn’t stopped me from following my passion for everything natural. Who says you can’t have it all?”
HAKIM YASIR ABBAS
School of Law, University of Kashmir
“I was born and brought up in Srinagar. I did my schooling here and then studied law at Amity Law School, Noida. Right after I completed my LLM from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow in 2013, I started teaching at Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.
My stay in Delhi and in Lucknow brought about an amazing change in my personality. An integral part of that journey has been the realisation that we (Kashmiri society) are unhealthily obsessed with medicine and engineering as career options. The parents with their “path kuss di khander”, the relatives with their “tsch tsch” and the education system armed with “a curriculum that stigmatises arts & social sciences”, suffocate our children and kill creativity. However, a lot of local young artists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, journalists, social workers, and activists have started to raise awareness about their respective fields.
I have a lot of missions in life. The most important one of them is to show people that there is so much more to ‘law as a career’ than Sunny Deol’s (in)famous “Tareek Pe Tareek” rhetoric. Another one is to radically revolutionise the way we perceive and practice education in our universities. Our conversations, our pedagogy, the learning process, the student-teacher relationship, and most importantly the way we evaluate students - all need a radical overhauling. And I intend to do that, one step at a time.
We cannot prepare people for the future using techniques and methodologies borrowed from 18th and 19th century. In this regard I also want to convince more and more people to seriously consider teaching as a profession. And such volunteerism has to be a matter of choice rather than that of circumstances. Only the people who feel this cause in their hearts will be able to constructively contribute to the change.
I believe that one of my biggest achievements at School of Law, University of Kashmir is the introduction of ‘law and literature’ as a subject. I am super excited about teaching this course next semester. Literature, Kashmiri and Urdu, is dying. My generation is seriously struggling with Kashmiri and Urdu. I wan’t to change that.”
“The whole night, she cries herself to sleep. The next day she looks in the mirror and gets ready as if nothing has happened. Facing the world, her family and friends; trying to act normal, she smiles awkwardly and moves ahead. Sometimes she tries to live upto the societal expectations, sometimes she lives for her children, and sometimes she is just existing. Years pass, her hair turns grey and one day she ceases to be.
How many of us value a woman as an individual rather than the roles she assumes-of a mother, a daughter, or a friend??
Keeping in mind the various issues women face in our society, I felt a need that there should be a common platform for Kashmiri women. Our state is sensitive but often we forget the daily issues faced by the women-they’re doubly disadvantaged.
I wanted to help in some way. That’s when I conceived the idea of Yakjut- a Facebook group, which means unity. It’s a platform for women to release their stress, alleviate their feelings of depression by engaging with each other; trying to empower women financially, providing them a common place, and a space for their welfare.
I took into consideration the women who cannot afford a store, or a studio or pay a huge amount of rent and those women who due to varied reasons, cannot work outside. So I realised, why not empower these women by giving them a chance to work from the confines of their homes!
So, the group is not restricted to just social discussions, even homemakers seeking financial independence sell home-made bakery products, pickles, honey, jewellery, and many more things. It is also a platform for women to seek assistance and recommendations from fellow ladies. The group helps new start-ups run by young women too, by giving them a space to reach out to their potential customers.
It is a small contribution from me to my place, my home. Although it took a minute for the idea of Yakjut to come into being, I hope it will continue to grow and help women empower each other. The group was created on 6th January 2019, currently we have 23,000 women as a part of this group.”
“My name is Muskaan, I’m a transgender woman. But that’s not all, I am also a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a lover, a dreamer, a fighter, a muslim and a Kashmiri, but most of all, I am a human, like all of you.
I have been laughed at, ridiculed, and isolated. I’ve been told to kill my feelings. i have been tortured, incarcerated and starved. I’ve been accused of being flirtatious, and overtly flamboyant. I am misgendered by a majority of the people, daily. My property was taken fraudulently and i was thrown out of the home. I have been called every derogatory name that small minded individuals seem capable of conjuring.
My life was filled with hate, prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination which follows me wherever I go..
The journey that I went through all my life as a transgender woman has many ups and downs, many happy stories but mostly sad ones. It is difficult being a woman in this world let alone being born as a man and go through life as a woman. Fortunately, I am someone who appreciates life itself. I see adversities as life lessons, I’ve learned so much more about myself and the world around me. I’ve become not only a grown woman but a better human being.
Labeling someone because of their race, sexuality or gender identity is one thing, but treating them differently because of that is inhuman. The only label one should wear is love and the act that we should follow is respect.”
Source: Sonzal Welfare Trust
SYED MOHAMMAD WARIS
“The lashing rains made me nostalgic about the time when from the deep recess of my being there would gush forth a torrent of emotions which later found it's way in my poems! Although I’m a specialist in alternative medicine, the inspiration to write came from growing up in a family deeply influenced by Sufism and Sufi tradition. My grandfather had a deep knowledge of mysticism and he taught me that the best religion is the religion of humanity.”
Dr SYED KARRAR
*Looking at a picture of the potters wheel*
“Do you think pottery instills a sense of calm and promotes relaxation?”
“Well it’s therapeutic on many levels, it requires a heightened sense of focus and concentration on a piece of clay which blocks out everything else. It’s a form of mindfulness-your mind is in the here-and-now, while you’re at the wheel.
Also, as the wheel spins, i think it produces a kind of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) effect which can help process some distressing memories and alleviate the clinical complaints associated with it.
You can create anything you want. There is no right or wrong. Whatever you produce helps increase a feeling of self worth and a sense of accomplishment, which can be very helpful for someone suffering from depression or low self-esteem. Clay is therapeutic, it’s an emotion.”
“Isn’t it beautiful that you can create anything out of the moist clay on the potters wheel; anything you want, it’s going to be your creation!”
“Well that reminds me of a verse from Habba Khatoon’s poem, it goes:
“Rang rang thurnai kralaen baane
Byeon byeon kor naqashe
Kehn drai hael kael
Cha main danai posh”
So in this verse, the poet refers to God as the potter (kral); rang rang banne is the diversity in God’s creation and how he carved each one of us with our unique individualities and idiosyncrasies.
Growing up, our elders would often quote these poets but I don’t think we gather the essence of it as they did. We’re too caught up in a frenzied spiral of the fast pacing world, you see. We don’t stop and reflect, or embrace and cherish the beauty in the contrasting colours of the cosmos.”
Cover Photograph by CHAPRI ASSAF, Kashmir Photography Club. One of many such initiatives by the very talented and young photographers of the Valley. These are just a few stories of the many that have been voiced, each poignant, each a struggle to penetrate the fog and be heard. Do share your stories with us at The Citizen.