FOR LOVE OF THEIR LAND

Many professionals are returning to Kashmir giving up lucrative jobs in foreign countries to contribute in the development and progress of their native land. Kashmir Life profiles a few of them who have made a difference in their own small ways.

Academic
Dr. Khurshid Iqbal Andrabi had spent more than six years in the US and served at Clevland Clinic Foundation Ohio. But, he preferred to return to the valley. He has a doctorate from Chandigarh Medical Institute and a post doctoral training from prestigious Tuft’s Medical school, Boston (USA) and later on at Harvard Medical School. Presently he is the head of the Department of Biotechnology at University of Kashmir.

“I had my own compulsions to return back but there are no regrets. I am very happy with the decision,” he says.

When he returned to the valley in 1996, he was appointed as Associate Professor at Sheri- Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, where he served for six years.

In 2003, he was put-in-charge to establish the department of Biotechnology which he transformed from a one-room entity to one of the finest Biotech facilities of the country. The department is ranked amongst the top ten Biotech schools of the country.

Dr. Andrabi says that the motto behind establishing the department was to change the mindset and attitude of the students in Kashmir. “So far, we have succeeded in creating an environment which is creative in every sense. I believe that like-minded faculty members are perhaps the best of the people you can get to teach in any biotech department,” he says.

In his academic career, he was among the merit holders in professional medical entrance examination at state level but didn’t join the course and pursued studies in simple graduation and his post graduation in biochemistry as a topper.

In his search for more opportunities, he qualified National Entrance exam to earn himself a research fellowship from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and later completed his PhD in Chandigarh.

“I am very passionate about everything I do. Passion is an instrument that stretches your potential as far as realising your dreams,” he concludes.

All rounder
Syed Parvez Qalandar, a 1984-batch Chemical Engineering graduate of erstwhile Regional Engineering College was good enough to find jobs everywhere but love of his native land always tugged at him. He always wanted to return.

After completing engineering, his desire to work in the industry took him to Middle East, where he worked with top companies for some time.

It was not his talent in engineering that took him to a foreign country, but his cricketing skills that led him to England to play for the Scotland Dumfries county in ‘90’s.

However, Qalandar chose to get associated with a rubber company there besides joining a degree course in computers adding it to his profile that already had two more  degrees in Business and Marketing Management and Maintenance Management.

Qalandar says that chemistry, cricket and computers where enough for him to get a job outside and the  salary was  quite lucrative, but somehow he decided to come back – a decision strongly opposed by his brother who is settled in England.

“I never weighed my options by monetary benefits, and have never regretted on my decision of coming back to my native place,” said Qalandar.

Back home after two years in England he joined the JK Cements Limited and tried to streamline the process there and with skills learnt he can credibly say that “with the trust in my workforce we could achieve some better results in the past”.

He left the job to start a business consultancy and is helping entrepreneurs realise their businessoplans.

Mathematician
Dr. Fozia S Qazi from Islamabad had left the valley to pursue higher studies at Syracuse University New York. After completing her PhD in the US, she taught at different universities such as Syracuse, St Mary’s and Indiana for about twenty years. She wanted to come back but the turmoil delayed her return. Qazi wanted an opportunity to implement her ideas and she finally returned to the valley in 2009. She now teaches Actuarial Mathematics that has application in insurance, finance and industry at Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora (IUST).

“To work outside, helped me to gain broader perspective and experience.  The beautiful memories of my place were always with me and every year I used to visit Kashmir and spend couple of months. But, the only reason for my return is to help my people through my expertise,” Fozia says. She had also held a prestigious fellowship at Centre for Women’s Intercultural Leadership – a think tank at ST. Mary’s College. “I had always wished to create a niche for myself in the field of mathematics.”

Fozia was born and brought up in the family of famous mathematician and writer Prof Qazi Ghulam Mohammad. “I had my upbringing in a mathematical world.  In maths, mathematical pictographs were my favourite,” she says, who is also a social worker, photographer and painter.

She is the first to take up the initiative for introducing Bachelors Program in Actuarial and Financial Mathematics and Mantaqi Centre for sciences at IUST. The centre combines rigorous research and education in sciences with perspective from humanities and social sciences.

“The bachelor’s program is a zero unemployment course .There is a great demand in market for skilled and professional people in the financial and insurance sector. I didn’t want to teach fifty year old syllabus,” says Fozia.

In 2003, even while she was in the US, she along with fellow Kashmiri professionals in the US registered an NGO under the name Chinar (Child Nurture and Relief) and within a year, Chinar was set up as an independent organisation in Kashmir for the psycho-social rehabilitation of orphaned children and to facilitate the teaching of non-violent means of conflict-resolution, quality education, successful social integration, religious tolerance and community involvement.

Marketing man
A man, who has travelled world, seen big media dens, worked with a couple of them came  back to Valley to give proper branding to its beauty, art and craft. Tariq Bhat, in his 40’s, is presently running one of the biggest communication companies of the Valley called ‘Associate Media’ with his partner Wajahat Kashtawari.

He has worked in Delhi (early 1990’s) with Mike Panday, made some documentaries there on traffic, environment, wild life and worked with Maneka Gandhi on some films about animals. He has been in Saudi Arabia for five years and has been a teacher/producer at King Saud University, made many documentaries for them, besides, made one documentary for Imam Muhammad University and other for Al-Hilal Ahmer (Saudi Red Crescent). He was hired by J Walter Thomson, an American media company for some of their media projects and worked with them for three and a half years.  

“I simply went there for Ummrah and stayed there for quite some time to perform Hajj, meanwhile I got good opportunities which I had no reason to deny”.
Tariq was always possessive about his native land. “In Saudi Arabia, I was mostly dealing with branding, from identifying a product to making it sell in the market but at the back of my mind I was always thinking about branding our Valley’s products and making them sell”.

Having a well established career in Saudi Arabia, Tariq had to leave his job and luxuries and had to come back home for some domestic reasons. “It was 2002, when I came back, I with Wajahat established Associate media, we wanted to have all media under one roof”.

A science graduate, Tariq, took media as his subject and did post graduation in Mass communication and Journalism from University of Kashmir (1992). While in college, he wrote for  Aftab, Srinagar Times (1983), edited few copies of Daily Uqaab (1987) and was a co-founder of urdu magazine Taqbeer-e-Nou (1985), of which he was an associate editor for four years. He has worked for Doordarshan for few years.

His company the Associate Media has won awards from China and Japan for a film series on environment – ‘Earth matters’. Another film about Kashmir Handicrafts produced by them has been screened at Dubai and London. The company has worked with Al-Jazeera TV, CBS, PBS, University of Kashmir, SKICC, KCCI, DD Kashir and J&K Tourism.
Tariq is coordinator of Indian Documentary Producers Association for J&K and Member of Press Club of India.

Dr. Sibtain Masoodi
Dr Ghulam Sibtain Masoodi, 66, originally from Khrew Pulwama, presently lives at Sanat Nagar in Srinagar. He spent 28 years of his life in America. He left the Valley in 1974 for further studies. “I was forced by my parents to go there for further studies in medicine as they wanted their children to be highly educated”. When he left for the US he was married and had a six-year-old kid. He has done his sub-specialization in Gaidic medicine.

Masoodi’s father was a Unani doctor and his mother was a teacher, then the highest qualified woman of her area started a school for girls, which was later recognized by the government.

He has studied in Pulwama till 5th standard and later shifted to MP School Khan-i-Kahi Moula. Went to S.P College and later graduated from Government Medical College, Srinagar.

He is trying to construct a hospital in Srinagar. He has conceived a project worth 22 crores which he wants to be financed by some bank. The project envisages construction of a 60-bed hospital at Karan Nagar in Srinagar and a 10 bed hospital for every 100,000 population area and a pharmacy. “This pharmacy will have the cheapest medicine in Valley, with no adulteration and will be of high quality,” he says.

Masoodi has been greatly inspired by Zain-ul-Abidin, commonly known as Budshah. According to him, Budshah in his times had sent many Kashmiri women to Iran to train them to as mid-wives. This move lowered the post-partum deaths in the valley.

“I want to raise the standard of general health sector which people will look up to it and learn how to run a proper health care centre at affordable prices,” Dr Masoodi said.

Besides planning to establish a hospital, he wants to train young doctors to practice medicine properly.
Apart from being a doctor, he is a hotelier and an industrialist as well.
 
The professional
Abrar Wadera, an engineer, having done bachelors in Electronic and Communication from Regional Engineering College (REC), Srinagar, did a one year course in bio-medicinal engineering.

Abrar started his career in SK Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS), where he worked as a bio-medical engineer for three years. He was working in SKIMS when in 1997, he went to work for Siemens India.

He was been appreciated and praised for his work in the company and soon he was on his way to Germany. “I worked in Germany for one and a half year,” says Abrar. From Germany he was posted to Siemens Saudi Arabia and then to the US.

The job provided him the chance to get acquainted with specialist technical details in the training conducted by his company. “I have undergone 45 training programs with Siemens,” says Abrar, adding that at Siemens special care is taken that engineers remain updated of the latest procedures and developments.  “A bio-medical engineer has to keep updating himself with the latest technology,” he adds.

He quit the job in 2007 and started his own company. “Autotechnik was set up for making in-house quality software products which would address the problems of the hospital labs in the country,” he says.

The company came up with software termed as Total Lab Management system. “The software enables labs to work at the fast pace, and minimizes the errors. Every small error and lacuna is identified to ensure accurate results,” he says.

Abrar’s good exposure and knowledge has made the people of Valley to have an access of software which is in high demand in other parts of the world. He has donated this software to the department of Immunology and Molecular medicine at SKIMS.

“Today the labs at SKIMS are completely standardized and everything is computerized. Now an audit system, a complaint system and a recovery system is in place and the system is almost error free,” he says.

Abrar wants to have an accountable system.

“A single personal error can finish off a machine,” says Abrar, adding that the same applies to everything. “The US and Europe have reached this level of development because there they have set procedures. The people know that they have to pay for even small mistakes.”  He says that the same should be applicable here also. “The only way to development is through evolving accountable systems, and through establishment of quality educational institutions,” he adds.

Abrar is now working to establish a world class lab at the Transworld Muslim University.

The dreamer
Zeeshan was just 11 years old when he left the Valley. He still remembers the day when his parents told him that he is being sent to a place where his personal growth and development will take place without disturbance. He carried their hopes and dreams with him and came back to Kashmir when he felt ready to take on the challenge of bringing in change in Kashmir. At present he is the Managing Director, Little Wonders Centre for Early Childhood Education,” a premiere pre-school at Baghat Barzulla with his wife Satria Candao, who is from Philippines.

 “I was saddened by the idea of parting with my parents but since I was just a young boy then, I was also excited with the promise of experiencing life in a foreign cosmopolitan city,” he says.

Zeeshan had represented many financial institutions both in New York and Manila and worked with some non-government organizations whose advocacies included human rights, indigenous peoples, and the environment. He also played football professionally.

Throughout his growing-up years in Philippines and the US with his uncle, who is a US citizen, he had always been deeply troubled by the violence and the sufferings in Kashmir as portrayed by history books, as broadcasted in the news, or as told by his parents who experience it first-hand.

“Since, I couldn’t be in Kashmir those days, I brought Kashmir to myself. I brought Kashmir to every classroom and presented it to every teacher in the International School of Manila and to every professor in the University of the Philippines. Kashmir was clear and present – in my writings and in my speeches. I even brought Kashmir to the football fields. In a sense, I never left Kashmir or, perhaps, Kashmir never left me,” Zeeshan beams.

On his return, Zeeshan established the preschool where they uphold the best practices and use the best available age-appropriate materials. “I would only proclaim to have achieved my best if I do succeed in bringing in reforms in the field I am passionate about—the education,” he says.

He says that his achievement at Little Wonders is a collective triumph where both teachers and care-givers are providing the best quality of early childhood care and educational services. “I have no regrets. I knew life here was going to be difficult for someone who may be used to the fast-paced modern living standards of developed countries. But I am happy to be with my family. I am happy that Kashmir is giving me an opportunity to work for social and economic development,” Zeeshan says.

The scientist
Shakil Ahmad Romshoo had left the valley to pursue higher education but after completing his education, he stayed back for a job. He was never sure that he would ever return but there was a curiosity to return. He had lived outside Kashmir for almost ten years and stayed in several countries. The main reasons for returning back to the state was the belief that transfer of skills, technology and education to his fellow Kashmiris would give him much more satisfaction in life.

Presently, Romshoo is heading the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Kashmir. He had taken the initiative to start new Master’s course in Geo-informatics and Post Graduation Diploma in Remote sensing and GIS. Both these courses have tremendous societal importance.

 “I had always a curiosity and desire to return to my homeland but the trigger was the sickness of my mother back home. I returned first to Delhi and then to University of Kashmir. Since then, I never thought of joining back my organization in Japan,” he says.

Romshoo always had the belief that it would be more satisfying to work in his homeland than in a country where one is always an alien. “I would enjoy working with research scholars and students and that gave me tremendous satisfaction and happiness. No regrets at all for returning back to my homeland,” he says.

He had completed his PHD at the department of Civil Engineering, IIS, University of Tokyo, Japan in Water Resource Engineering and remote sensing and his post graduation from the department of Space Technology, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand in Remote Sensing and GIS.

During his stay outside Kashmir, he had worked as scientists and research fellow at the Space Technology Applications and Research Department, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok, Thailand, Institute of Industrial Sciences (IIS), University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan, Earth Observation Research Centre (EORC), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Tokyo Japan and the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi India.

Till date, he had visited 33 countries located in almost every continent. But, during his research project on the use of latest technologies for understanding the land surface processes he had spent more than seven years in Japan.

He has got more than a dozen research projects for the University since his return and through these research programs; he had generated important information about issues that are vital for the environmental friendly socio-economic development of the state.

“Though it is very important to work and study abroad to get better exposure and other benefits but I feel that it is more rewarding and satisfying, when one utilizes one’s energy and resources for the development of our own motherland. With huge improvement in the facilities and opportunities here, I am sure that there will be pleasant surprises for those who are reluctant to return,” says Romshoo.
 
Entrepreneur
Muddasar had returned to join his family business in 2003 after completing MBA from Fordham University New York. After a stint at their hotel in Tangmarg, Muddasar found himself engaged in power sector after their company won the tender to built the Athwatoo power house.

In a place where the government outsources its power projects for “lack” of qualified manpower, a local company getting into an enterprise that demands high end technology was a bold step, though their company had a 40-year-experience in construction business. They had taken up civil works in power projects like Upper Jhelum, Lower Jhelum, Karnah, Drass and Pahalgam.  But Athwatoo was a big plunge for the company and everybody advised against it.

 “There were no roads, no buyers in sight, no arrangement of finance in sight, the area did not have any basic facilities. The cost overrun and delay could make it a disaster,” said Muddasar.

Their resolution led them to rope in J&K Bank as a financer. “After deliberations, we told them that whether or not you give us money, we will still build the project,” says Muddasar.

The project envisaged construction of a 3.1 km canal, 450 metre pent stock, 550 metre spill way and 10 X 18 metre main power house. A 7km transmission was also laid to transfer the power from the project to the grid.

Currently, the ASHP employs 75 people, all locals, including engineers, blacksmith turned head mechanic, electricians and security guards. Mudasir feels happy that he returned and that hsi efforts bore fruit.

The project uses imported machinery and technology. ASHP is fitted with SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system for the purpose of remote controlled operation. However, the company has not put the controls on internet due to the fear of hacking, although it has installed VSAT for the purpose.

Businessman
He is the brand new honcho keen and confident to make it big in horticulture. He left Penjoora, one of Shopian’s prosperous villages at the age of 17 to do his bachelors in Industrial Systems Engineering from the US. From the Indiana based Purdue University he did his Masters in Operations Research. For next three years he handled ‘optimization of supply chain problems’ of the Washington based Micron Technologies. At 28, Khuram Shafi is back home to run his father’s just established controlled atmosphere store (CAS), only the second facility in the state.

“I told my father that though I am enjoying being a worker in US, having the blast of life, travelling every week but let me give it (project) a year,” Khurram said. “Now I am in the middle of third year and I am really enjoying what I am doing.”

Harshna Naturals is the second major CAS facility in Kashmir. It is running the facility to its maximum in partnership with Italy based Unifruiti. Off late, the group has acquired a fleet of refrigerated trucks for ferrying the stored fruits at the peak of summer – a system Khurram is keen to procure.

After the successful implementation, Khurram says his priority is to involve the Field Fresh experts and get them to evolve the standard matrix for Kashmir apple involving yield, shape and size. This is a must, if we need to survive as India’s major apple basket, he insists

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