Had teenager Hina Nazir Sheikh known the costs of chasing her dream of opening a beauty parlour in trouble torn Kashmir, she might have never pursued it. Seema Qadri talks to the maverick beautician whose fate changed with the changing political history of Kashmir
In the fall of 2007, after completing her 12th standard examinations, Hina Nazir Sheikh, now 25, told her parents that she wants to open a beauty parlour.
The mere mention of opening a beauty parlour in Kashmir raised eyebrows and drew criticism from almost everyone including Hina’s parents. “It is not a respectable profession. Who will marry a beauty parlour girl?” asked her parents.
But Hina was not an easy one to convince. She had her eyes set on her goal.
By early 2008, Hina has rented a commercial space in uptown Hyderpora, and was making plans to design the place according to her requirements. But things did not go as per planning. “At the last moment I was told by the authorities that this space has no permission for running a commercial enterprise,” recalls Hina.
Heartbroken, but not cowed down, Hina rented another space in a nearby market place and invested some 40 thousand rupees in decorating the shop. The initial response was good. Hina was happy to finally realize her dream of working independently.
But by August 2008, Kashmir was simmering against ‘illegal’ land transfer to Amarnath Shrine board and subsequent economic blockade by Jammu based Hindu right wing parties. Including all other commercial establishments Hina’s parlour remained locked for months. “It was heartbreaking to say the least as things came to a halt abruptly after going smoothly for a couple of months,” says Hina.
As Hina was not able to pay the rent for her shop, it was ultimately closed down. “The best thing for me at that point of time was to wind up everything and go back to finish my studies,” says Hina.
In 2008, Hina was already in her 2nd year of graduation. Eventually, she picked up from where she had left. But the urge to complete her unfinished dream didn’t let her stay at peace.
After the revocation of controversial land transfer order and some 55 innocent killings later when life started to get back to normal in Kashmir, Hina geared herself up once again to chase her dream of running a beauty parlour for women.
This time she approached Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) in Pampore for necessary finance and training to kick start her dream venture afresh. “I zeroed in on a shop in Lal Chowk for the purpose. But the landlord was reluctant to sing a written rent deed with me which EDI required,” says Hina. “I was once again left hunting for a suitable space to operate from.”
It took Hina a while to narrow down her search to Nowhatta area in old city Srinagar. The place seemed ideal as it was located in the centre of downtown and accessible from all areas. By spring 2010, Hina was again in business, talking orders in bulk for marriage ceremonies and parties. “I was doing good business. Things started to look better finally. I was content with the outcome of my dream venture,” says Hina.
At Nowhatta too Hina named her venture: Butterflies. “My parents were happy that finally I have overcome all stumbling blocks and was adding to the family income,” says Hina, who lives with her two sibling and working parents in Rambagh.
But in summer 2010, following the fake encounter of three civilians in Machil sector in Kupwara district by army, Kashmir was once again simmering with anger.
Irked by the official impunity that shields culprits in conflict torn Kashmir, people took to streets in thousands to protest against the state and the army. Government came down heavily on the protestors demanding justice by firing live bullets into the crowd. This led to the killing of a 17-year-old boy Tufail Matoo in Srinagar. He was killed while on his way home from a tutorial centre. Mattoo’s killing triggered a cycle of protests and deaths, and more protests and more deaths in Kashmir. For months the killings continued and so did the protests against the innocent killings.
There was no sign of life on once busy streets of Nowhatta either – an area known for pro-freedom and anti-India protest.
Once again Hina was grounded for months along with her dreams. “It was the most difficulty phase of my life. I was spending whatever I have saved so far to pay the rent of my shop,” recalls Hina. “With no income and recurring rent, survival was getting difficult. I was back to square one in terms of progress,” says Hina.
When Hina could not cope up with the losses she once again decided to do the inevitable: shut down her dream venture. “I was shattered and heartbroken. I was thinking that this could not be happening again. But I had no other choice either,” says Hina.
The second closure of her dream venture and the losses that Hina suffered made her parents to press her for a formal job. “They were equally disturbed by my fate. All they wanted was to see me have a stable life and future,” says Hina.
Despite getting many offers to work in private companies Hina was confident to realise her dream. “I could not work under any person. I always wanted to be my own boss,” says Hina.
By the autumn of 2011, Hina has convinced her parents for one last chance to realise her dream of owning and operating an all female beauty parlour. This time she was confident that fate will be on her side. “They were kind enough to let me open the parlour once more,” says Hina.
Finally in March 2012, Hina revived her connections with EDI and started to hunt for a suitable location for her parlour. “This time I spent almost a month hunting for safe place. Finally I re-started my dream venture from posh Chanpora on city outskirts in April,” says Hina.
Within a short span of time Hina not only regained her lost confidence but also revived her links with the clientele and started making money. “The response, as anticipated, was good in Chanpora. I could now concentrate on my plans of expansion,” says Hina with a smile on her face.
In one year’s time Hina has successfully opened another parlour in historic Hari Singh High Street (HSHS) in the heart of the Srinagar city. “I now shuffle my time between HSHS and Chanpora,” says a proud Hina.
And for her parents, it is nothing short of a miracle that Hina made possible with her hard work and unwavering dedication. “It feels good when people approach you for advice related to choosing the right profession,” says Hina.
Presently Hina is planning to visit Mumbai for a formal training in bridal make-up and grooming. She already has done professional training in hair-styling from Javaid Habib and a course in facial care from Aroma in Delhi. “Chasing your dreams consistently in life despite hurdles makes you successful in life. There is no other shortcut,” quips Hina.
Starting from getting a professional training from Habib’s followed by a course in facial care from Aroma’s in Delhi; she took this big step of her life of establishing a beauty salon of her own.