Kashmir, which is known as one of the most heavily militarised regions in the world is not only limited to conflicts and paralysed governance. Kashmir is well-known for its unconditional natural beauty, pristine lakes, clear gushing waters and mountainous peaks. Although, the present condition in the valley is not conducive for its people going by the frequent encounters, protests, unemployment issue or others, as it is not the same case in other states, nevertheless, the youth are thriving best to carve a niche in different sectors. The Youth in Kashmir comprises 60 per cent of total population. Here are the stories of few youths who are restless and are trying to create a space of their own.
Thirty-year-old Isam Wani, who hails from Rajbagh Srinagar, completed his masters in business administration from the University of Kashmir. Wani was certain to do something different and was fascinated with photography, cinematography and filmmaking from a very tender age. Since Wani belongs to a family that is mostly into the hospitality sector, he got a supportive atmosphere at home when he wished to take up his hobby as a profession.
Wani had started shooting short documentaries and web series from the tender age of 18 only. He said, “I am more passionate about showing Kashmir in a positive approach and promote it as a travel destination.”
After completing his masters he did a drone pilot course from Mumbai. After coming back, he started his own company namely ‘Colour White Studio’ with his twin brother Minam. Today, Wani is the only licensed drone pilot in Kashmir and is working tirelessly from past two years with the department of Jammu and Kashmir tourism to make short videos of different destinations that are not on the travel map.
“We have been doing a lot of videos of destinations that have not been explored to that extend as of now like Gurez, Gangbal, Aharbal, Tso Moriri Lake, Lolab valley to name a few,” Wani said.
The twin brothers are already excelling against all odds within just two years after establishing their company as they have already shot a documentary for BBC. They also have done cinematography and drone shots in many Bollywood films including Anurag Kashyap upcoming movie Manmarziyan, Sajid Ali’s next flick Laila Majnu that was mostly shot in the Valley of Kashmir, which is all set to release in September this year. Besides, the twin brothers have also done a small cameo for director Anurag Kashyup. They have done a lot of commercial shoots, music videos for Parvaaz band too.
Under the tagline of ‘Colour White Studios,’ the duo try and teach people to get a license for Drone before flying it in Kashmir valley and help and guide them how to apply for a license. Despite living in the common occurrence of a tense situation in the Valley, both the brothers have made it a point to remain focused and excel in their ideas.
Wani mentions that Kashmir is a place where one cannot work for 365 days. “Before starting our dream project, we planned of only 100 days of work every year. In those 100 days, we will give our best and try to be different and creative.”
In another story, Suhail Nazir, 26, completed his schooling from Burn Hall School. He was not really a science lover so he opted for BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) from Kashmir University. Following BBA, Nazir completed MBA in HR and Marketing from IUST, Awantipora. After which he started working for Outlook and was earning good but he always had a dream of being his own boss. So, one day, he left the job, decided to come back to his homeland and start his own venture.
Nazir recalled, “Back then, there was a fresh trend of starting your own cafés, but, I decided to do something different. In the back of my mind, I always felt that there are lots of options for men when it comes to hair care and skin care but there was an empty space in the same for women.”
Keeping this in mind, he decided to start a salon by the name of ‘Beauty and the Peach’ and since then he is treating his clients with utmost professionalism and quality care while keeping the price low and pocket-friendly.
“I believe that if a person has a goal and a vision he can achieve anything despite the surrounding conditions. It might be time taken or stagnant for some time but it will work,” said Nazir.
Starting his own venture was not a cake walk but a real challenge because after doing MBA his parents wanted him to work in a corporate set up that will give him financial security. Despite all, Suhail was determined to turn this idea into a reality.
“Now, my family is also supporting and pushing me to open another unit and expand,” he narrated.
He now plans to give away franchises in the coming years in order to expand his business chain. He said, “In future, I aspire to have one salon at least in every district of Kashmir. I also intend to reach to other states as well.”
Shahid Rashid Bhat, 23, is an emerging designer from South Kashmir’s Pulwama district and was fond of colours and thread from a young age but fate had something else in store for him.
Due to the prevailing conditions in the Valley, his parents sent him to Delhi for a course in chartered accountancy. Bhat was hesitant to talk to his parents about his passion and left for Delhi.
“For the initial six months, I attended college, but, I was restless and did not like accountancy at all,” Bhat narrated.
He used to draw sketches, tattoos, Henna Designs and upload the pictures on his social media handles. By chance, when a known fashion choreographer Sam Williams came across his designs, he contacted Bhat and encouraged him to take up fashion designing seriously. After Williams’ suggestion, Bhat searched for possible places where he could pursue a fashion designing course.
“I left my course after six months and qualified National Eligibility Entrance for Designing (NEED) test and got admission in Pearl Academy of Fashion and Designing in 2012, in Delhi, without letting my parents know,” said Bhat.
He funded his education for initial few years by working as a freelance model and finally, when he was in final year of his course, his father came to know about his accomplishments through a newspaper.
“Due to fear of negative response and taboos attached to designing, I did not share anything with my parents, but, when my father came to know he was all support and praise and then financed my further education,” Shahid mentioned.
After graduating, Shahid was selected by Pantaloons as fashion illustrator where he tirelessly worked to reinvent Kashmir’s traditional dresses and give them a new life. He reinvented pheran (Cloak) and gave it a new look to take it to national and international market.
“When I applied for my first fashion show, I saw designers from different cultures, states, countries but not even a single one from Kashmir and I made my mind to fill this gap,” said Shahid Bhat.
Recently, he started a fashion designing school in Kashmir where he teaches more than 25 students and also launched his own label SRB Style Statement and a website. Today, Bhat’s pheran designs are in demand in Pakistan, China, UK, Afghanistan, Jakarta and other countries as well. In 2015, he was chosen as Designer of the Year by the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI). Presently, he’s doing Masters in Craft Design from the University of Kashmir.
In 2014, when cloudburst and floods devastated the Valley, 19-year-old Umar Nisar started a community radio station within the lawn of Islamic University of Science and Technology.
Umar, who hails from South Kashmir, is a class 12th student. He was working on ideas to make the community radio station commercial.
“After I started, the frequency was the main issue and I came up with an internet based app solution. While tuning in the frequency one can listen to the radio station with the help of the internet,” said Umar.
He named it ‘Pannun FM Digital Media & Broadcasting Network’, a digital media network and radio station to encourage the young talents in Kashmir. Prior to the launch of Panun FM, Umar was a regular contributor to 102.6 FM.
He has been presented with the ‘CRDP Award’ of the year for his for his contributions as an innovator by the Centre for Research and Development Policy. He is also one of the youngest Kashmiris to speak in a TEDx programme.
Eyeing on the Bollywood, Nisar is currently working on many projects but, right now, studies are his main focus.
“I majorly aspire to become an actor, but, I also want to focus on my studies simultaneously,” concluded Umar.