In conflict-ridden Kashmir, running a business is a challenging norm but becomes double challenging for a women. In a largely conservative society of Kashmir women are aiming for financial independence via entrepreneurship. Although the goals are small but the road is not only rough but sturdy too but more and more Kashmiri women are opting out of jobs and choosing entrepreneurship as a career.
Dressed in a black color track suit and a yellow badge shining on her chest on which Owaisa Khan, Yoga therapist and personal trainer is engraved on. Owaisa started practicing Yoga when she was in college. Her passions for fitness started when her father lost both his limbs due to an neurological stroke. “My father became obese with time and lots of other diseases attacked him. This made me realize that to be fit is very important,” she said.
She thought of doing a full time degree in physical education and finally opted for a B.P.ed course in one of the institutions in Ganderbal, Kashmir. While she was still in the middle of the course she lost her father. Since, she made it her goal to advice and guide people to remain fit and eat healthy.
With no support from home she started training school children in different forms of physical activities like Yoga, boxing etc. It was tough to pursue a career in a field that had really no scope in valley. She did not lose hope and stood firm to her choice and decision “When I started going to train school children people used and mock me. They would say what can a girl do and what training she will impart to boys but it never disheartened me. I took it as an opportunity rather than a challenge,” she said.
With time she got herself trained and certified in Yoga, Boxing, and a course in self defense as well. Currently, she is the only Kashmiri female trainer in the Gold’s Gym Srinagar. She aspires to open a Yoga institute of her own in future.
Anam Siraj, 27, have studied commerce. She comes from a service class family where her parents have worked in the government sector. However, her extended family was into business, her grandfather and her paternal uncles have been into business of Kashmiri handicrafts. Anam’s venture ‘The Closet Cloud’ basically has its roots in her deep interest for colors, clothes and designing. “Good, pretty clothes have always fascinated me. So this idea came in, when I was working with an MNC in Delhi. I wanted to do something of my own. So I asked myself this question of what I was good at, and the answer was designing clothes,” she said.
She decided to go for it, resigned from her job in Delhi and came back home to get it started. Coming from educationist’s family, her parents thought of her decision as a stupid one. They wanted her to be an educationist too. “Since my parents were not really happy with this idea of starting a business venture, it took me a lot of convincing to get their approval on this. So the basic challenge was to convince my parents that what I wanted to do was a good feasible startup plan,” she said.
Since it was her decision to start a clothing brand, she did not want to ask her parents for any kind of financial help. So raising finances was a challenge which was looked into by a financial institution later. On top of that the unrest of 2016, which was right after she began work, was quite a blow. “It took a great deal of dedication and will to face that and pass it on gracefully. You must relentlessly chase perfection and need a ridiculous amount of passion. Once you are ready to give it your 100 per cent, trust me, no one can stop you.”
Nargis Khatoon remembers that the passions for music started when as a child she understanding the nuisances of likes and dislikes. She first performed on stage when she was just four years old. Throughout her school days, she performed at every function but things started to change when she got a chance to perform in Radio Kashmir auditorium but support from family was missing. She fought back and never missed any opportunity to perform be that school annual function or any charity show.
Narrating about the interest in music, she said, “Girls are always discouraged to choose singing as but with time I realized that many of my family members especially my uncle had an inclination towards singing & was blessed with a good voice, that’s where I thought the gene came from.”
As soon as she completed her 10th in 2014, she got a chance to give voice to many songs that were featured on DD Kashmir and some jingles as well. Speaking about the formal training, I haven’t got any as such but I have a strong urge to get classically trained.
With no support from family and no good scope in the valley in the field of music demotivated her as an artist particularly being a female but her mother became motivation factor. “I lost my Mom in 2014, she was battling cancer. She was real supporter & would support me in each & every step I took in my life but since she left, I’ve been multitasking. Managing home; pursuing studies and chasing my dream too,” Khatoon said.
Only thing that never lets Nargis forget her dream is the struggle that she has been doing since so many years. She doesn’t have a specific goal even but want to achieve small milestones and build her music career brick by brick. “I want to leave my mark, learn & progress each day & get recognized for my art. I have no formal training and now I am planning to get trained in classical music,” she said.
Since last three years, one thing that she noticed and bothers her, wherever she have performed, She is been the only female artist to perform. “We can’t say girls aren’t inclined towards art particularly music but I fail to reach the conclusion why don’t they come in open, break the barriers & start chasing your dreams.” The message she has to all the girls who aspire to be musicians.
A year back when 26-year-old Anam Khan decided to come back to her hometown Kashmir she thought of starting something of her own. Although, her parents have been very supportive throughout the journey but she had to put in some real hard work to make it work.
“My parents always knew my love to create new things. I also knew that my start up wouldn’t be related to any specific field; it would definitely be an amalgamation of several things. So that’s how I came up with blends”, said Anam who hails from Peerbagh, Srinagar. Blends is a unique initiative in the form of a creative studio, based in Kashmir. It’s an amalgamation of Art, Fashion, Interior decor and Make-up.
Anam did her schooling from Tiny Hearts and graduated from Women’s College, Srinagar. Later, she pursued her masters in Linguistics from University of Kashmir but her heart had always been inclined towards art, so she started exhibiting her paintings since she was 16 years old. After completing her Masters in Linguistics she convinced her parents to let her do some diploma courses in Interior Designing and Fashion Designing from Delhi. More options in her aspired field opened after that. She soon started working with different companies in Delhi as an interior designer and as a social media manager.
While starting Blends she Kept in consideration the artistic genome of Kashmiri youth, this is intended to serve as a platform for multiple creative needs. “As time passes, it will grow with greater aspirations and expand its coverage of various other art forms as well,” she said.