Bridging Designs

It took even late CM Mufti by surprise when he learned about the face behind Zero Bridge’s design. Ubeer Naqushbandi reports

Deeba Farhat

When late Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was told by JKPCC officials that the new Zero Bridge model was prepared by a lady architect, he flashed a smile saying: “Who is this girl. It is perfect. No need to alter it.”

Mufti left with an instruction: “I will meet her after I am back from Delhi.”

The girl Mufti wanted to meet was Deeba Farhat, an architect who runs Designer Spectrum from her office in Dalgate, Srinagar. “There is nothing special about me. I am just trying to carve my niche,” says Deeba, who is in her late thirties.

An alumnus of Mallinson Girls School, Deeba, was influenced by her uncle Sheikh Mohammad Ismail, a reputed architect of yesteryears who ran Associated Consultants from the same office. “I was brought up by him,” says Deeba. “So the influence was obvious.”

After completing her schooling Deeba joined PG Halakati College in Bijapur, Karnataka, to pursue her dream. “Like today, people were equally crazy about medicine or engineering. All other options were considered useless,” says Deeba.

But Deeba’s uncle stood firm by her decision and let her pursue her dream. “Even my friends thought I was making a mistake by choosing architecture over medicine or engineering,” recalls Deeba.

The New Zero Bridge. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

In 2002, after completing her graduation, Deeba and her brother Mudasir Ahmed, joined their uncle’s Associated Consultants. “People visiting our office for designs used to look down at me because I was a girl,” says Deeba.

She recalls a client telling her uncle: Ismail Sahib koreh mohnue thovtan daftars peth (Ismail Sahib why have you kept a girl at the office).

But Deeba’s uncle, who has raised her since childhood, never paid heed to such comments. “It is really inspiring when your loved ones stand by you,” says Deeba.

After Deeba joined Associated Consultancy, people starting writing firms obituary. How can a girl run an architect firm was the point of discussion? “I said nothing. Instead, they were shut when I bagged prized Yatri Bawan project,” says Deeba.

Enjoy Jhelum view; Koh-i-Sulaiman in East and as far as in the West. (KL Images: Bilal Bahadur)

During the inauguration of Yatri Bhawan then CM Farooq Abdullah, in his typical style said: See Naya Kashmir, our girls are making it big.

After that offers started to pour from all directions, says Deeba. “I recall designing one house for an NRK at Rawalpora. He wanted a German-style house. It was quite challenging,” says Deeba.

Once complete, the said house became the talk of the town for its unique design.

In 2006, after Deeba got married, she was apprehensive that her career as an architect will be over. “But my in-laws stood firm by my side,” says Deeba.

The same year Deeba took a leave from her job and moved to Delhi. Then, one day her father-in-law showed up at her door and said, “Are you going to waste your talent like this?”

These were ‘words of wisdom’ for Deeba. “I began working again, this time in Delhi with Design Atleir,” says Deeba.

Kiosk: Next time you walk over Zero Bridge, take a rest in Kiosk. Besides, you will have a variety of beverages to taste.

In 2012, Deeba was back to start Designer Spectrum. “This time response was great,” says Deeba.

Riding on the goodwill that her work had generated Deeba pitched her idea of restoring the iconic Zero Bridge to its glory.

“I reintroduced Warwos, the forgotten traditional slide window system in Zero Bridge, for sightseeing,” says Deeba proudly.

A wooden houseboat that serves as a restaurant, visible from the Zero Bridge, is among Deeba’s prized creations.

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