“Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90…time is a concept that humans created.” ~ Yoko Ono
Age can never put any kind of limitation on our dreams. If you don’t mind, it won’t matter. And this is what Sangeeta Sindhi Bahl was inspired from. She is the first woman from the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the oldest woman to conquer the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest (29,035 ft). She also broke the previous record of Prem Lata who had climbed the world’s highest peak back in 2011. And now she is all set become the oldest Indian woman to scale the highest mountain peak in North America’s Mount Denali.
She was born in Jammu and was very ambitious since childhood. She was a former Miss India contestant in 1985 and was able to make it to the finals. She is also the founder and director of Impact Image Consultants which is based in Gurgaon. Previously, she has worked in the aviation industry. Also she has designed uniforms for few airlines. She got the idea of mountaineering from her husband who had successfully scaled the world’s highest peak in 2016.
Sangeeta’s journey started in 2017 but was not able to complete due to some health problems. Her husband kept her motivated all the time. Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa which 5,895m was the first mountain she climbed with her husband in 2011. Then the saga goes on. In 2014 she climbed Mt Vinson then Mt Aconcagua. When tried to scale Mt McKinley she got a knee injury. But still she was very determined to achieve what she wanted.
When she applied for a mountaineering course at the Himalayan Institute of Mountaineering in Darjeeling, her application was rejected due to her age. She said “My application was rejected as I was above 40 years.” But she didn’t give up on her dreams. Her husband worked very hard to train her.
The highest mountains of each of the seven continents of the world makes seven summits. She had already climbed six summits and now all set to conquer the last one Mount Denali in North America. If she achieves this one successfully, which we hope she does, then again she will break the record of Premlata. She did her training in Leh. She said, “I have learnt how to navigate snow and ice crafting while being in Leh. I had a wonderful training in Leh.” Sangeeta has also turned vegan recently.
“My cause on this climb is veganism and stopping all cruelty to animals. I wish to spread my voice for the voiceless”, she added.
She is a big inspiration for all the people and taught us you are never too old to dream. We wish her the best of luck for the next mountain she is going to scale. Hope she makes our state and country proud, again!
Jammu and Kashmir has always been home to a number of legendary women who have made great contributions but have seldom got recognition.
To undo this, two Kashmiri organizations Sonth and Koshur Lifestyle, have come together as “Kashmiri Women Design Collective”. They have rebuilt the blurred memories of women of Kashmir, who have in some way left an impact on the lives of Kashmiris, and presented their story within a calendar of 2019- A Gift from Jammu and Kashmir’s New Women to The Old. This initiative is focused on motivating women to express, seek and achieve as they aspire by taking the examples of strong historical women.
The following nine Kashmiri women artists, after due research and analysis, have chosen twelve women from history to be represented, as follows:
1) January- HABBA KHATOON, “Zoon”
The Calendar starts with a black and white painting of the great poetess of Kashmir, Habba Khatoon. The painting elaborates on the significance of her nickname, “Zoon”, meaning “crescent moon”, as depicted in the picture.
Habba Khatoon was one of the 16th century mystic poetesses born in Pampore. She is known to have a harmonious voice that attracted the last king of Jammu and Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak.While Chak fell instantly in love with her and married her, Queen Khatoon came to be known as the “Nightingale of Kashmir”.
Through this depiction, the artists, Kayehaan Anjum Khan, has depicted the mundane human aspects of Kashmir that speak of the simplicity in its people. Khan is a Dubai based Kashmiri artist.
2) February- QUEEN DIDDA
For february, artist Onazio Drabu, has chosen Queen Didda to fill a canvas full of red, blue, green and brown colours, representing Didda and her temples.
One of the great women rulers of Jammu and Kashmir, Queen Didda reigned from 979 to 1003 CE. She was physically challenged but that did not barricade her from being an active and just ruler. She is known for her political acumen till date.
The painting is made by Onazio Drabu, an illustrator based in Kenya. She chose Queen Didda to represent women leadership, as she is one herself. Onazio is one of the women leading this initiative as the illustrator at Sonth Kashmir, where she prepares Kashmir based illustrations for the stationary.
She hopes that this initiative would empower women not only in Kashmir but women around the world.
3) March- ATEEQA BANO
The third page of the calendar is taken by Ateeqa Bano (1940- 2017), framed in a brown wooden frame. Bano was an educationist and activist who fought for the cultural and artistic heritage of Kashmir. She is popular for establishing the first ever private museum “Meeras Mehal” of history and art in Kashmir.
Ateeqa Bano’s painting is made by artist Zoya Khan, based in Srinagar, she is an architect and city planner, interior designer and digital imaging artist. Due to her interest is the heritage and vernacular architecture of Jammu and Kashmir, she chose Ateeqa Bano to represent the strong role of women played in the development of the heritage of Kashmir.
4) April- ARNIMAL
he painting of April shows a faceless women. The women is Arnimal, a poetess of the 18th century who was married to the popular historian and poet, Bhawanidas Kachroo, of Kashmir. It was after when Kaschroo deserted her that the pain of separation and longing for Kachroo turned her into a poetess.
The painting is made by Ghazal Qadri, an illustrator and product designer form Srinagar. Ghazal is a lover of visual art and humor and through the representation of Arnimal, she depicts the unanimous presence of the feeling of longing in all the women. Ghazal is now an illustrator at Lollypop Design Studio, Bangalore.
5) May- KOTA RANI
Though unrecognized, the blurred face of a woman in Red dress is of the 14th century Kota Rani, the last Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. Kota Rani is known for her active ruling and saving the people of the valley from floods. She created a canal, “Kute Kol”, besides the river Jhelum to secure people during floods.
Focused on highlighting and giving a visual representation of the nomadic communities of Jammu and Kashmir, the painting is intensely done by Sumairah Mumtaz. An architect and autodidact artist, Sumairah belong to Poonch district of Jammu. She currently works in Delhi and is focused on a project to bring nomadic communities of the state to life through her paintings.
6) June- MISS MALLINSON
The next painting shows a group of women holding hands and standing in circular shape. The painting is dedicated to a Christian Missionary from London, Miss Muriel Mellinson. Miss Mellinson is one of the most eminent pioneers who promoted girls education in Jammu and Kashmir and joined the valley in 1922. One of Kashmir’s famous girls school, The Mellinson Girls School, is named after her.
The painting is brought to life by Nusaiba Khan, one of the students at mallinson Girls School. Nusaiba, based in Srinagar, is also the lead illustrator at Sonth Kashmir alongside Onazio Drabu. She pays a tribute to Miss Mellinson for her efforts to bring women of Kashmir together in the cause of education.
7) July- RAJ BEGUM
July has the blessing of the first woman singer from Jammu and Kashmir, Raj Begum (1927- 2016), to perform on Doordarshan, Kashmir. With worldwide recognition for her melodious voice, Begum has paved the way for many Kashmiri female singers to enter the industry by overcoming stigmas and taboos related to female exposure.
The painting is made by Tuba Nasiem, a crafter based in Srinagar. Tuba uses paper to make hand crafted pieces of art. She is also the founder of an art studio, The Papercity, which offers hand crafted quilled papers and art works.
8) August- RUPA BHAWANI
The next painting is dedicated to the 17th century sain and poetess Rupa Bhawani, revered by Kashmiri Hindus who celebrate her death anniversary as “Sahib Saptami”. Famous for her spiritual philosophies, she is also known as “Mata Rupa Bhawni”.
The painting is made by Mahvash Masood, the daughter of Masood Hussian, the famous painter of the valley. Mahvash believes that the status of women in the current scenario needs a “rebellious change”. To present women as a symbol of patience, strength and power, she chose Rupa Bhawani, the goddess.
Mahvash, a full time artist, is based in Srinagar and has worked her hands of various mediums like papier mache, pashmina, oil, wood and acrylic painting etc. She teaches as a guest faculty at NIFT (National Institute of Science and Technology), Srinagar.
9) September- DR. GIRIJA DHAR
The power puff woman with a bob cut hair, stethoscope around her neck on September page is Dr, Girija Dhar, the prominent gynaecologist of Jammu and Kashmir. It was due to her efforts that the first and only maternity hospital of Kashmir, Lal Ded, was established. Dr. Girija passed away in 2018 leaving the valley at grief.
The painting is made by Ghazal Qadri, who also painted Arnimal.
10) October- LAL DED
The painting for the month of October is also made by Mahvash as she takes great interest and inspiration from Lal Dev, the 14th century mystic poetess and saint. Lal Ded is famous for creating a new style of poetry, called “Vakhs” and has large contribution in the literature of Kashmir.
11) November- HANIFA CHAPU
The next painting depicts the intellectual Hanifa Chapu, the first woman from south Kashmir to attain a Munshi Fazi degree in Persian. With a bachelor’s degree in education, Chapu became a gazetted officer. Painted by Tuba Nasiem, Hanifa Chapu is a symbol of righteousness who as an inspector of School, in Anantnag, fought against the presence of corruption in the education sector.
12) December- GIYANI MOHAN KAUR
The next and last painting of the calendar is made in the memory of Giyani Mohan Kaur from Baramulla. She is popularly known for selflessness and dedication to her role as the Headmistress, retired in 1976. She worked to uplift women in the education sector, significantly during and post partition of India. The painting is made by Nusaiba Khan.
As we come to the end of the Calendar, New Age Kashmir congratulates the ninth woman, Sama Beg, founder of “Koshur Lifestyle” and the publisher and marketer, on the success of joint venture “Kashmiri Women’s Design Collective” along with Onaiza Drabu “Sonth Kashmir”.
This calendar is a gift from new powerful & influential women of Kashmir dedicated to the old, inspirational & empowering women of Kashmir.