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Rising Star of Kashmir- Aabha Hanjura

Rising Star of Kashmir- Aabha Hanjura

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” —Walt Disney

How many of us actually believe that we can achieve our dreams? We sway from them as we grow- diminishing into worldly material, jobs and socialization. Most of us forget about the dream and only a few who remember it- work very hard for it. And, that is what makes them extra-ordinary, they believe in their capability to dream and thus possess the ability to achieve it.

Among the few dreamers is our very own Kashmiri folk singer, Aabha Hanjura. This article is aimed at adding to her stardom for she is not just a singer, but a dreamer who dreams of carrying our language (Koshur) across the world. “Kashmir has a beautiful culture. I want to bring that out in my music. I want to bring the sound of Kashmir out of Kashmir. In fact I want to take it out of India and put it on the world map. That’s my ultimate goal”, says a determined Aabha in an interview.

History of our Dreamer

Aabha belongs to a Kashmiri Pandit family. Her ancestors, hailed from Hanjura, a small village in Kashmir and she was born in Baghat-i-Kanipora, Srinagar. She, like every one of us, heard Kashmiri folk melodies from her nain (Grand-mother) while playing, eating and in the form of lullabies. Her initial training began with her mother, who is a trained classical singer by singing Lata Mangeshkar ji’s songs while she honed her on every note, pitch and pronunciation.

Ups and Downs

Later, Aabha was trained under the guidance of Late Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma. Over the time they developed a strong bond and she began to call him Bauji (Father). His guidance meant everything to her. Aabha lost her interest in singing when Pt. Sharma ji passed away. But as time passed, her wounds began to heel, and with constant motivation from friends & family she auditioned for Indian Idol Season 2 during her higher studies in Bangalore. With a renowned platform and appreciation from public as well as judges of the show, Aabha returned to her dream and from there the struggle to achieve it, began.

Breakthrough the past

Aabha full

 

Now Aabha Hanjura is spreading love for Kashmiri folk music in the form of her live shows like “Sufistication” (Name of her contemporary Sufi folk band) and Aabha Hanjura feat The Kashmiri Folk Ensemble, a mesmerising blend of Kashmiri Saaz. The most proud moment for us Kashmiris and Aabha together was recently when she sang the National Anthem at the Pro Kabaddi League in Jaipur. I can’t imagine how happy and honoured she must have felt at that moment. It is the first time that a Kashmiri got the chance to sing National Anthem on such an esteemed platform, to which, Aabha did great justice.

Love and Praises

Aabha’s performances on various platforms make us Kashmiris proud and take us back to memories of our childhood days, days of sweet folk songs, Nain’s singing, playing and we as kids dancing. Her dream to take Kashmiri culture to a global plain is admirable and applaudable. She chooses to be unafraid of the language barrier that might stand between her and her audiences, and also adds a Kashmiri touch to her clothing to let world witness the charm of Kashmiri folk. We wish her a very good luck for future ventures and look forward to more tracks like Hukus Bukus which is already a hit on the internet. We hope that her dream comes true and Kashmiri folk music sees an international platform with her on the stage as her sweet voice addresses the crowd.

 

Moulding ideas into Innovations, Kashmir

Afoot through the Kashmir Valleys’ (1902) by Marion Doughty rightly describes the forgotten Kashmir that unfolds under “the walnuts and the mulberries, shady and fruitful, ready to aid the hard lives of the people by their bountiful stores of food stuffs.”
These old books remind us of different times in the Kashmir Valley and will make you wish peace prevailed forever in our Paradise.Kashmir has walnut tress everywhere and a lot of people in the village and even the rest of Kashmir are involved in cultivating and selling walnuts. In fact it is one of the major sources of income for people of Jammu and Kashmir.
But, Kashmiri walnuts are a tough nut to crack. Manual walnut peeling and cracking is a tedious process. Also the sap of the walnut skin burns hands and stains clothes. So, the need of the hour was a WALNUT CRACKER which could easily crack, peel and wash walnuts saving huge time and manual labour.

mushtaq_dar

Oh wait, but Dr. G M Bhat, Director of University Science Instrumentation Centre (USIC) and Advisor, Entrepreneurship development Cell (EDC), University of Kashmir, says: “Such walnut cracker isn’t available even in China, where there is a flourishing walnut industry”.
Then how will we have it here in Kashmir???
‘Eureka!’ we have MUSHTAQ AHMAD DAR!

“Must is a hard nut to crack, but it has a sweet kernel.”
A walnut is totally tough on the inside but once you manage to crack that shell, then you are in for a treat. Keeping that in mind Mushtaq came up with a practical technological solution to the persistent problem. His keen eye for the problem led to an innovation which every Indian is proud of today.

“Innovations which help the poorest and the most deprived, are true innovations. India specialises in such innovations, though not many are widely known.”

Kreeri village in Shahabad area of South Kashmir, Islamabad district is no different in its beauty and allure than other places of Kashmir, but what sets it apart is that the place has given birth to a lot of innovators; three persons have come up with five interesting ones in last few years. Among those inhabitants is Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, who had a fondness for putting his creative ideas to practice right from his childhood.

Since he was a keen observer, he thought a machine that would help mechanically peel walnuts would be a great idea. So he developed a manually-operated walnut cracker, peeler and washer machine that can peel, wash and crack up to 80 kg of green walnuts of various sizes, shapes and thickness per hour without damaging the fruit inside, a process which would take days if done traditionally by hand.

Walnut cracker

“I used two wooden drums between whom the space can be adjusted according to the size of the nut. Walnuts are cracked between them as the drums start rolling while the cracked nuts are left beneath,” he explains.
This crude model of his walnut cracker machine was further modified by Dr Bhat and his team to increase the efficiency.
This home-grown technology has made life a lot easier. His innovation has made sure that walnut cultivation and production thrives and we can feel proud to serve the perfect gift from the Chinar country that anyone would be happy to snack on.

premium-quality-kashmiri-walnut-without-shell-gift-pack-6-97

The creative genius has participated in a workshop on Inventors of India, organised by prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and was awarded a certificate for ‘knowledge network for incubating innovations into enterprises’.
The innovation impressed agencies from many countries including Gigi Cheung of China, Joe of Australia, Papakonstantinou A of Greece and Peter Kondrat of Poland have approached Dar for manufacturing rights of walnut cracker.

I feel elated. It is great feeling when requests for manufacturing rights by international agencies come,” Dar says.

He has received many accolades for his innovations and says it only increases his drive.

His mind was always open to the problems faced by people around him and he took interest in solving them. Dar did not stop there and went on to inventing a Pole climber for electricians as well. It could also be used for tree climbing.

“I am working on making a mechanical washing machine that can wash bulky clothes, particularly carpets. The machine should be ready in a couple of months”, he says.

Innovating better ways of living have made a qualitative difference in the lives of the local communities. All these inventions were in direct answer to a felt need, which obviously wouldn’t be addressed by formal channels. Adversity brings out the best in us, that’s why I guess Indians are innovative, even in such adverse circumstances.

“Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.”
Keep coming back for more such hidden jewels

Beginning of Film Making Courses in Kashmir

Beginning of Film Making Courses in Kashmir

“Ye chand sa raushan chehra zulfon ka rang sunhera,

Ye jhil si nili aankhe, koi raaz hain inme gehra……….”

This song reminds the older generation of Shammi Kapoor singing to Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali in the midst of serene Dal Lake, Srinagar, and the younger ones of Ranbir Kapoor imitating Shammi Kapoor in Rockstar. In both the conditions the setting of Dal Lake and its magnificent beauty remains contagious. I can’t really hide my excitement when it comes to film shootings in Kashmir.  It happens often that we come across actors of the Bollywood industry. We have also witnessed various films being shot in our beautiful valley. Many of us have seen the snippets of shooting of popular films like Rockstar, Haider, and Ye Jawani Hai Deewani in the past years. Kashmir is not just a scenic beauty but also a hub of talent, which given an opportunity and right guidance will glow with names of its people.

Beginning of Treasure Hunt

Beginning of Treasure Hunt

Beauty & history of Kashmir leading to film shooting in the valley, and recognition of Kashmiri descent actors like Raaj Kumar, Jeevan, Anupam Kher, Manav Kaul, etc. is a renowned and recognised phenomenon. The dynamics of genius began to show when in 2011 Parallel Post, an e-magazine, in collaboration with Islamic University of Science & Technology (IUST), Awantipora organised a film festival called Verite Film Festival. The festival is held every year since its inauguration in 2011. It is aimed at exploring the hidden and budding talent in the field of film making among youth. The objective of the film festival is to brush and groom the potentials of short-story or documentary film makers across the country, especially from Kashmir. One such awarded film screened by Verite Film festival is Life on Wheels by Adil Shah.

 

Initiative of FTII- Film and Television Institute of India

Initiative of FTII- Film and Television Institute of India

Though held every year, Verite did not suffice the exposure that the youth required, they were missing the availability of guidance while opportunity was in abundance. Recently and for the very first time, FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) collaborated with Indian Army in Kashmir to roll out short-term Film Making Courses for the students interested in acting, smartphone filmmaking and screenplay writing. The initiative is engagingly welcomed by the students in Kashmir as a large amount of participants enrolled for the courses that will begin from 25 June, 2018 extending to 15-20 days of classes.

Object and Benefits

The short-term courses will help the students to realise their skills and potential in film making and learn about the right forms and methods used in the field. These courses will provide them with exposure and the opportunity to learn from highly qualified experts in the subject. I myself aspire a career in Film Making, to document my childhood experience of living in Awoora, Anantnag with my nain (grandmother), capture her delicious recipes and instil her Kashmiriyat into my film. FTII courses will give students like me the opportunity to learn and accomplish our dreams in the field. Once we learn well, we will be able to showcase better. There are platforms like KIFF (Kashmir International Film Festival) where the skills of Kashmiris in film making are exposed to entire world. KIFF serves as a huge platform for recognition of the potential present in Kashmir.

Vote of Thanks

We students, are all very eager to attend the courses presented by FTII in the categories of acting, film making and screenplay writing. The initiative will help in reviving the culture of Kashmir, the more students take part in it- the more native stories will come forward. In 2017, the film, Kashmir daily, of Kashmiri director Hussein Khan hit the box office in 2017. Hussein is an inspiration to the youth of Kashmir who despite having shifted to Mumbai after schooling decided to come back and produce a Kashmir based film. FTII will provide students with a platform to groom their talent and help them to explore the infinite boundaries of Film industry. At New Age Kashmir we appreciate their endeavour and aim to spread a word about the opportunity at hand.

Kashmir Super 30 Medical Project, 2018

Kashmir Super 30 Medical Project, 2018

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. In the holy month of Ramzan, and very near to Eid, Indian Army gifts a bunch full of joys wrapped with opportunities, to the youth of Kashmir. The initiative to develop Super 30 programme from engineering to the field of medical has become a reason for the smile on the face of thousands of students; adding splendid joy to the festive occasion.

Super 30, the initiative by Anand Kumar, a mathematician, aims at providing entrance exam coaching for IIT-JEE to support the economically unprivileged students.  He is recognized world-wide for his mentor-ship and efforts.

A similar platform, Kashmir Super 40, was adopted by Indian Army for the student of Kashmir to help them achieve educational success. The initiative began in 2013 in collaboration with the Center for Social Responsibility and Learning (CSRL) and Petronet LNG Ltd. (PLL), solely for engineering students as “Kashmir Super-40”. The project was a big success. In 2017, 28 students from Super 40 had cracked IIT-JEE Mains exam while 9 got into IIT.

IIT/JEE in Kashmir

 

After the triumph of engineering project, the Indian Army inaugurated “Kashmir Super 30” on 12th June 2018 for medical aspirants in the valley. The entrance exam coaching programme for NEET is being managed by an NGO, National Integrity and Educational Development Organisation (NIEDO), based in Kanpur. The NGO will avail teachers for academics while the Indian army manages the overall logistics, administration and infrastructure of the programme with the funding from Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL).

Super 30 Medical in Kashmir

 

“I will be very happy to see you all joining the medical colleges across India next year”, says Chinar Corps Commander as he applauds, compliments and wishes luck to the selected students of Kashmir Super 30 for their final training period of 12 months. The selection process that began after signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 15th March 2018 was lengthy and yet vigorous. NIEDO conducted a written test for over 14,000 applicants lead by an interview and screening test for 170 shortlisted students. They were finally able to select 30 skilled, bright and aspiring students from the huge crowd of enthusiastic candidates of Kashmir Valley. The fact that so many students were looking forward to career opportunities in medicine was inspiring. The whole procedure turned out to be one of the best event to be held during Ramzan.

Indian Army in Kashmir

 

We whole-heartedly thank our Indian Army for their support and productive vision for our future as they take another initiative in the field of academic development of Kashmir. The Kashmir Super 40 project have proved to be an effective tool in transforming the society and we hope the same from Kashmir Super 30 as well. We believe that the endeavour will infuse a new ray of hope in the lives of under-privileged students. It will not only help them in recognising their talents but also make them able for better employment opportunities. At New Age Kashmir we cherish the efforts of Kashmiri people, Army and look forward to more generative developmental ideas.

Khuram shafi mir

High-Density Apple Orchard Inaugurated in Kashmir

“Waqt lagta hai, par ho jata hai.”
says the protagonist, Shahid, of the Bollywood movie Shahid. Read the article to find out why I have opened my article with the above quote.apple orchards 

The apples of Kashmir do not need any introduction. The stories of the taste of its divine fruit are popularly spread across the globe and thus, are in high demand, especially, in South Asia. Jammu and Kashmir is famous for producing a wide variety of apples which serves as a direct or indirect source of income for farmers. It is in the apple-picking season, which is from late July to October, that the actual joy of farmers can be seen. The green apple orchards, the dew drops on the fruits, and the sun kissed trees magnify their happiness with the beauty of Kashmir.

To keep the craze of apple farming intact and to nurture the productive growth of apple plantation, an US-educated Kashmiri born engineer, Khuram Shafi Mir, has taken revolutionary actions towards it. He is the son of a farmer from Penjoora village, district Shopian, who from an early age of 17 has been making efforts to enhance the plantation of world-class apples that ripen in the arms of Kashmir. His achievements begun from establishing a Control Atmosphere Store (CAS) in 2009. After working hard for 9 years to revive the apple industry of Kashmir, he finally set up a high-density apple orchard in June 2018 in Leh region.

 

high density orchard

 

Khuram, for a very long time, wanted to set up a high- density apple orchard, which is different from traditional orchards. A high-density orchard gets sunlight from all directions which helps the apples to ripen in same colour from all sides. The dream has finally taken a shape with the help of Ladakhi engineer, innovator and education reformist, Sonam Wangchuk, whose vision has served as a guiding star for Khuram’s ideas.

The high- density orchard, initiated by Khuram, has been set up in Phyang village of Jammu and Kashmir, 19 kilometres away from Leh at the university campus of Sonam Wangchuk’s initiative, namely, Himalayan Institute for Alternate Learning (HIAL). The plantation began with planting 264 trees of Gala Redlum, Red Vilox, Fuji and Golden Reaindeep apple varieties. Khuram mentions that they have changed three layers of barren soil successfully to ensure healthy plantation. And, thanks to Wangchuk, as his innovation of irrigating the orchard with the strong trellis system that receives water from “ice stupa”, has added more motivation to the initiative.

 

ice stupa

 

Nazi Ahmad, the horticulturist and head of the task force for high density plantation, has estimated that by 2050 the demand for apples in the world will reach up to 160 lakh metric tons. The current production is of 35 lakh metric tons. As per Ahmad, this is the perfect time to choose contemporary technique of high-density orchards over traditional orchards. Even the locals have begun to realise the importance of high-density apple orchard and have already adopted to it.

 

apples

Khuram and Wanchuk are two Kohinoors (Diamond) of Kashmir. They continuously remind the youth about the necessity of education, the resulting economical and national growth that comes from it and the hard-work that eventually pays off. Khuram becomes an inspiration to generations for his vision as he takes revolutionary steps towards the development of his state and country altogether.
New Age Kashmir happily represents gems like Sonam Wangchuk, the great engineer who inspired the character of Phunsukh Wangdu in “3 Idiots”, and introduce sprouting personalities like Khuram Shafi Mir, who have over and over taught the lesson of hard-work and dedication.

Kashmir International Film Festival, in the valley without a cinema hall.

Kashmir International Film Festival, in the valley without a cinema hall.

 

The 1st Kashmir International Film Festival of short and documentary film took place in December, 2013 at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of Dal Lake. I might sound a bit too excited but in reality how many of you were even aware of this event? Not many, I can bet.
I would like to tell you why, but before that let me quote a spectacular soliloquy by Mark Antony from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, after Caesar had been murdered: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

Quoting the line is self-explanatory.

Young people resent the fact that when some masked youth take to the streets to pelt stones or brandish flags, national news channels flash the footage for days together. However, the same media ignores any positive developments happening in Kashmir.

We the people from the Valley of Saints and Reshis have had enough adverse publicity through a cynical prism that is challenging our warm ‘Kashmiriyat’ that still defines the Valley.

New Age Kashmir will not let the good of the Kashmiris be lost amidst today’s prime-time TV debate.

 

 

Let’s present to you today, Kashmir’s only independent and non-commercial film festival, Kashmir International Film Festival.

Founded with a mission to celebrate the cinema & work of aspiring, young, independent & professional filmmakers. Its aim is to recognize the informative, entertaining & progressive new age cinema of youth & experienced filmmakers.

In Kashmir, where there are no cinema halls, in a bid to revive the dwindling theatre and film culture in the Valley, the first four day Jammu & Kashmir International Film Festival was held in October, 2014, here in the SKICC auditorium in Srinagar.

The purpose of this film festival is to promote new movie makers, exchange of knowledge, information, ideas & culture between different nations in context of their social and cultural ethos. Film is the most democratic art, thus film festivals can help maintain democracy, peace and freedom.
The purpose of our KIFF is sharing. It helps promote friendship and cooperation among people of the world through the medium of films & documentaries.

 

 

Our aim is to organize this Film Festival just to get Filmmakers from across the world to Kashmir and show them what Kashmiriyat really means
Aamir Rafiq Peerzada – Festival Chairman

While the festival is open to filmmakers of all age, it becomes a great meeting place for all film-makers and audiences who are interested in film as a medium and a tool of social expression. Film festivals create dialogue between people and encourage cultivating the future members of this creative industry.
Besides screening films, a workshop is also organised to make students aware about aesthetics of film-making.

In this hope to revive the dying culture of cinema in the valley a Five-day-long international film festival ‘Kashmir World Film Festival’ kicked off in November, 2017, with the screening of ‘Meanz Raat’ Kashmir’s first full-length feature film made in1964. It has even screened 30 films of different International languages.

The Kashmir shown in news channels and newspapers is just a projection of through a pessimistic glass which is being countered by the youth of the Valley. It’s a source of angst for them that the national media consistently plays to a negative stereotype where Kashmir is concerned.

Kashmiri youth are not all violent stone-pelters, they all-encompassing achievers.
The world media hardly ever mention that.

BANEER

Scope and Opportunity to a better Life in Kashmir

“Do you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play”,

says American football coach Mike Singletary. The statement honors the opportunities given to individuals, who grow up to be successful in different fields. We’d like to add to the statement that any opportunity holds its importance only when people are more responsive towards it. Kashmir is known for its scenic beauty, lush green lands, snow-capped mountains, Pashmina, Art, Culture, Food and of course the extremely talented Kashmiris. The state provides ample opportunities to everyone especially youth of Kashmir to study and work in different fields. While state takes steps towards creating a platform, people have to generate the will to give themselves a chance.

Making a change through Sports

 

Creating the opportunity to play is one of the most important contributions by the army as it inculcates sports as an essential means to a sustainable life for the young and enthusiastic generation. A few days back, army made an effort to uphold the love for cricket among children by providing them with sports kits. The event took place in the arms of Baramulla and Sangri and is marked memorable by the following T-20 match between two schools.

It is both indoor and outdoor games that help students to assess their talent. A small initiative to organise a carrom board match depicts the presence of strong intellectual capabilities among youngsters at Chinar English Medium School. Children must seek inspiration from ideal like Afshan Ashiq, the captain of J&K Football team, who chose to avoid violence and pursue her passion that ultimately lead her to a better life.

While talking about sports, how can we forget that three girls from Kashmir proved that taking a step ahead can change your life? Manar Mushtaq, Momina Manoor, and Mehsoon Fatima won Taekwondo championship in Macau, China. Their achievement has roared from Macau to the lands of Kashmir that made every single person proud.

Sports have been used to bring a social change over the time. It promotes brotherhood and friendliness among children that help them to identify the chance of making their lives different.

Making a change through Art

Kashmiri Arts

Art plays a major role in developing the personality of an individual by bringing hidden thoughts and perspective to the surface. For example, if someone is good at painting, they must take a step ahead and participate in competitions, reach out to more audience, and learn more about it to make it a challenge for others. In fact, multiple workshops and competitions are organised to help children access their hidden talents.

An inter-school painting competition was organised at Youth Centre in Lunahare, Kupwara; about 123 students from 15 different schools participated in it. On the other hand, to improve the competitive spirits of students, a cultural programme was organised in Krusan. And as the list goes on, these initiatives are triggers to the availability of opportunity and one should explore and grab them to take their art forward.

Making a difference altogether

 

Mere heedfulness in producing opportunity is not enough, it is rather more important to address them. It is through the availability of education, regular guest lectures, and goods distribution that state stretches a helpful hand to the people while supporting them with regular medical facilities. People have to give the priority to education and development over misguidance and exploits.

Recently an interactive session on Health Education was organised for the students of Government High School, tutoring them on the importance of cleanliness and suggesting precautions for preventing diseases. In Bandzu, Pulwama, army distributed medicines to people of all age groups and conducted a health check-up. Also, to inspire students to involve more in education and sports, a wheelchair was gifted to the differently-abled girl and sports kits were distributed to students in Radbouga.
The J&K government recently launched a weekly cultural festival at Dal Lake called “Culture of Cruise”. It brings writers, musicians, poets and academics together that serve as a wide source to explore beyond geographies.

With firm beliefs and effective methods, state has been able to promote a better future for the population of Kashmir. It is time that their actions are given a response and more people step forward to make a change in their life. Kashmir is a land that gave birth to Sufism and taught us to bring everyone together using pillars of Insaniyat (Humanity) and Kashmiriyat (Spirit of Kashmir).

New Age Kashmir focuses on the opportunities that are available for people at different platforms and evoke a sense of development by creating an awareness about them. For a progressive Kashmir, we Kashmiri have to take steps forward to grab opportunities for our own good. The motive is to guide the youth to take action when given a chance because there is never a next time.

Ace Tennis Star- Ankita Raina, The Pride of Kashmir

Ace Tennis Star- Ankita Raina, The Pride of Kashmir

Nothing is more satisfying to see our own Kashmir people reaching to the heights in every field especially the sports.

Did you know that India’s No 1 tennis star, right now, is none other than a Kashmiri Pandit girl, Ankita Raina? Yes, you read it right!

Raina is ranked number one in Women’s Single rankings in India. Don’t get confused! (Sania Mirza was ranked No. 1 in the women’s doubles rankings). Besides, Raina has won six singles and seven doubles titles on the ITF tour in her career.

Young Ankita Raina, a Kashmiri Pandit who has lived in Gujarat since 2007, has become the third Indian woman tennis player to make it to the top-200 rankings in singles.  

 

 

Aged only 25, Ankita has reached 197 ranking in the World Tennis Association (WTA) chart on April 9, 2018.

Previously, this record was held by only two Indian female tennis players – Sania Mirza and Nirupama Vaidyanathan. Tennis star Sania Mirza had reached rank 27 in singles in year 2007 and Nirupama’s rank was 134 in the year 1997.

 

 

Great Young Achiever from Kashmir, Pulwama

The ace tennis star belongs to South Kashmir’s Tral town in Pulwama district. Her father is from Pinglish village while mother belongs to Drussu village.

Born on 11 January 1993 in Jammu; Raina’s family migrated from Kashmir to Jammu and then to Gujarat, Ahmedabad, where they settled in 2007.

A very talented and promising tennis player; Ankita was introduced to the sport at a young tender age of four. She credits it to her mother, Mrs. Lalita Raina, who herself was a table tennis player and college level athlete in her times.

Ankita Raina is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce in Pune. Besides, she is employed with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

 

 

The Turning Point

Despite being ranked number one in India, Raina was unable to get the required funding. The turning point in her career came when Prime Minister Narendra Modi (the then Chief Minister of Gujarat) stepped in to ensure that the necessary funding is provided so that she could focus on the game. Since then, Raina has been sponsored by the Sports Authority of Gujarat under the Shaktidhoot scheme.

 

Target Olympic Podium!

Being India’s top-ranking female player; Ankita Raina has now been included in the Government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).

“I am happy to be in the TOP scheme and would like to thank SAI, AITA, and SAG for all their support. My best performances have always come when playing for the country and I will definitely not fall short of giving my best effort to achieve my aim,” Ankita said.

 

 

The Future Ahead!

Raina has gained an entry into the main draw of the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros after being included in the list of qualifiers released recently by the WTA. Calling it a childhood dream, Raina said, “I think words don’t do justice to feelings. My dream has come true, it’s been my dream since I was little. I always used to watch the Grand Slams on the TV and Serena Williams playing and used to ask when will I play there.”

Ankita Raina

 

Hats Off to the Undying Spirit of the Kashmiris

Raina has become the first Kashmiri Pandit woman who has been able to make a mark in the field of sports at an international level, that too at such a young age.

Here is wishing the pride of Kashmir, Ankita Raina, all the best for her bright future! Her story will serve as a source of inspiration for the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to pursue their dreams; no matter what the vagaries of life are!  

Pashmina- A Declining Legacy of Kashmir

“It starts like a beige tuft of fibre, protruding from a large burlap sack. As we pull it from the hidden source,  it gradually reveals itself.”

What’s soft and cuddly, has a touch of class, and is guaranteed to bring a warm glow to even the most unromantic? A pashmina shawl. No wonder it is donned as a family treasure and passed down through generations the world over. The “Soft Gold” or Pashmina as we call it is a prized possession since time immemorial, not just for the household or Kashmir but for the entire nation.

Kashmir has a rich and ancient heritage of craftsmanship. The land of unique motifs and design techniques that have been transformed and perfected over centuries. Mastering Kashmiri craftsmanship takes years of training and designing Pashmina shawls is an art that has been carried forward through generations of craftsmen. To your surprise, a pashmina shawl can take up to 6 months to a year to be made. The legacy is intricately handwoven and embroidered to craft perfection. As a matter of fact, until the 1940s, this precious silk yarn produced in this Valley was exported all over Europe. But to our sorrow, today the craftsmen are fighting the battle of the pashmina. The enemy in this war — inexpensive, imitation pashmina wool that has caused its sales to plummet.

Pashmina is fighting an existential battle. The pashmina industry of Kashmir is a crucial economic contributor to the state and to the country as well. It is one of the largest economic activities providing direct employment to the majority of artisans and traders. This sector also plays an important role in the development and welfare of artisans. The pashmina sector makes the conspicuous contribution in sustaining export trade of the state. However, the industry has seen a decline since late 90‘s. The industry is facing a lot of challenges, some reasons of this are an intervention of modern machinery, lack of information regarding market trends and also increased competition from various countries. The artisans, as well as the traders/manufacturers, are suffering in this struggle of keeping this legacy alive.

 

Having raised the problem now it’s time for India to fight for pashmina and its market position globally. Artisans and the traders/manufacturers who are related to this trade faces many obstacles like rising cost of raw material, decreased demand due to the introduction of fake pashmina shawls in the market, lack of information regarding market trends and labor rights etc. Artisans face labor problems as well, as they themselves are ready to work on low labor because they don‘t have any other source of earning their livelihood. Also, a majority of the artisans are from the poor economic background and therefore, they mainly face economic problems.

As per traders, arts emporium have lost its glory and haven‘t played the role for which it was meant. As per traders, there have been the cases of arts emporium selling products of angora, toosha, etc in the name of pashmina products. Fake selling of shawls in the name of pashmina products are one of the dreadful threat for customers, due to this reason the perception regarding pashmina in the minds of customers has changed and hence the market situation too.

 

As mentioned earlier there is an immediate need to reshape our domestic market of Kashmir in order to enhance the pashmina business activities so that the local artisans would themselves know the trend being followed in the market in order to be on top of the market and customer minds. We need to believe and consider the artisans as the backbone of this business and wish for them to be very informative and creative in their work which can be achieved if the gap between market and artisan is reduced. The government has identified pashmina a product with high export potential. It’s high time we put in every possible effort to fight the troubles our Pashmina industry in facing and revive its beauty for generations to follow.

Kashmir Rugby Team

Unrest. Turmoil. Tension. Protests.

This is what one normally hears when it comes to the valley. But lesser do they know that the forces trying to dominate evil over good are never stronger than the ones who do the opposite. New Age Kashmir is one such platform where we bring the real essence of what the valley carries and this picture, believe me, is ethereal.

Today, we have a unique story of how a group of girls under the sky when wrap themselves in dedication, hard work, perseverance and talent break all odds and win over stereotypes. We are talking about the girls Rugby team of Jammu and Kashmir who have been in the news for their miraculous victories and unbending attitude towards anyone who has tried to stop them.

When Irfan Aziz Botta, a Srinagar-based industrialist took the decision of introducing rugby to the state, everything went smoothly. He contacted the Indian Olympic Association that organised a camp at Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar in 2004. But hardly any women participated back then. But today, 4000 girls in the state have enrolled for the game with the State Sports Council.

The fearless, bold women from Kashmir are defying all odds and coming out to play rugby in the Gindun Sports stadium, every Sunday, without fail, to follow their passion and make a name for themselves and the state. They fight everything including the fear of what is happening on the streets, to play for their state. And their efforts are finally paying off. The State’s Women’s Rugby team won the 3rd National Snow Rugby Championship held in Gulmarg recently.

 

Once considered to be a man’s game, rugby is exponentially gaining popularity amongst young women in the valley. The girls’ team played their first competitive game in 2006 but who could have thought that eleven years later, these rugby players from Kashmir will play at national and international levels.

Salihah Yusuf, captain of the team, narrates her story saying her PT teacher pushed her to participate when Botta went to her school for a training camp since she was active in the school’s sports circuit. And now she says “I am glad she did it, because I live for the game now!” Such is the journey these women have travelled.

Different faces, different circumstances, different stories, different cultures but one spirit of Rugby keeps them unwavered and unstoppable. While some were asked to quit because of studies, others were not allowed to travel outside the state, some were even dissuaded on the grounds of being a girl but as they say “There is no force equal to that of a determined woman”, they had chosen their path.

These girls have been breaking stereotypes around the women of Kashmir. They are not shy. They are bold. They are women with ambition. They are highly motivated by their want of making Kashmir proud.

 

And when asked where do they see themselves in five years from now? They all echoed the same thought…

Representing India in international rugby matches.

Kashmir’s rugby team has received a lot of support from several quarters. Looking at their determination former Sri Lankan rugby captain and Member of Parliament, Namal Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka have come to help teach them the tricks of this game.

Namal Rajapaksa said, “Kashmir has a window of opportunity. The kids should be guided and an apolitical willingness should be there to bring that change. Sports is a key alternative in that process.” We welcome Mr. Namal Rajapaksa and thank him for his support to promote sport’s culture in Kashmir especially in Rugby.