“There is a strange emotional attachment and an unexplainable affinity between Kashmiris and Pakistanis.”

Nadia Mehr, who became first Pakistani girl to earn a doctorate from Kashmir, tells Rahiba R Parveen  that staying in conflict torn Kashmir was not a problem as Pakistanis are brought up as fearless people.

Nadia Mehr Pic: Bilal Bahadur
Nadia Mehr
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Kashmir Life (KL): Many congratulations. What does being the first Pakistani female doctorate from Kashmir mean to you?

Nadia Mehr (NM): Thanks. I feel I owe a lot to my nation, family and the people of Kashmir. It’s overwhelming to say the least. The love for Pakistani people in Kashmir is evident and that is what makes my doctorate and my stay here worthwhile. The Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, NN Vohra, calls me the grand ambassador of the SAARC nations.

KL: What brought you to Kashmir? Of all the places why did you choose Kashmir?

NM: I believe in destiny and I think I was destined to be here. My family took it as a joke initially but then I had been lucky enough to get selected in the student exchange program and I did not want to miss the opportunity of visiting the paradise of earth.

KL: Was the exchange process smooth? What about the visa and other formalities?

NM:  Sadly it was not. I had to make countless visits to the Indian embassy in Islamabad, about a day long ride. Then I had to make the officials at the embassy understand the nature of my visit, which was not easy at all. And finally the monetary aspect; I could not have done this without the family support.

KL:  Why did you choose this topic for your research?

NM: A lot of work is being done on the present scenario in Kashmir however not much is being written about the medieval history of Kashmir. Moreover our (Pakistanis) interest vis-à-vis Kashmir comes naturally. Every Pakistani household possesses literature on Kashmir.

KL: How was your Kashmir experience in terms of contact with the local people?

NM: It has been a mixed bag. I mean some people despite their love for me strictly advised me not to call them while I was in Pakistan, for security reasons. Some don’t mind the calls. But calls or none the love has been heartwarming. I have been showered with so much love.

KL: Not getting a visa in time while your sister was on a death bed, how denting was that emotionally?

NM: I felt helpless. It’s ironic that New Delhi and Lahore are so near yet so far. I could not spend any time with my dying sister. I reached right when she breathed her last. Getting a visa was so difficult. It haunts me whenever I think of the time and how dark it had been. It will remain etched in my heart for ever.

KL: After spending time here, what do you think of the understanding Kashmiris have of Pakistan and vice versa?

NM: There is a strange emotional attachment and an unexplainable affinity between Kashmiris and Pakistanis. And I think that love transcends all borders. People in Pakistan have an idea of life in Kashmir to a certain degree and same is true the other way round.

KL: Did you ever feel scared of being in Kashmir?

NM: Pakistanis are brought up as fearless people. I as a woman would say that we are raised not to fear a thing accept Allah. Alhamdulillah, Pakistani women are not scared. We don’t know to fear and my stay here without my family proves that.

KL: Do you think women in Kashmir are more empowered than women in Pakistan? Do you see any differences?

NM: Pakistani women enjoy more space outside their homes than Kashmiri women do. In Pakistan women play an active role in politics, media, corporate and other fields of life but here even though women do contribute but they are little in number. You, for instance, are the first female journalist I have met while I met number of males. The reason may also be lack of avenues and of course safety concerns. Life in Kashmir almost ceases to exist after 6 PM.

 KL: Are you satisfied with the quality of education here in comparison to the universities in Pakistan?

NM: It won’t be just to compare any of the universities of Pakistan and Kashmir. But I have been here for four years and I am completely satisfied with the system here. There are hardships like cold weather conditions, curfews but yet they are imparting quality education which means they are better somewhere.

KL: You said that you wished to read news in Urdu on Doordarshan’s Kashmir chapter. Why?

NM: I watch Urdu news on ‘Kashir’ channel since it’s the only channel in India that broadcasts in Urdu. But the Urdu they speak has a certain influence of Hindi and Kashmiri. So I wished they took me on air. Though I love the way they speak Urdu but I would always correct my friends.

KL: Would you suggest more students from your country to pursue studies here?

NM: Yes, of course.  And they want to be here in any case. When I went back for the first time I received more warmth from my people. They treated me as if I was a Kashmiri. We have so much in common. I am from Lahore and we have voracious appetites and when I ate Kashmiri Wazwan I realized we are actually same.

KL: What message would you send to the Government here with regard to facilitating more student exchanges in future?

NM: I would request both the governments to make the visa process easy. People with pen and paper never do harm. They must realize this and begin with imparting education here.

KL: What opportunities would the Kashmiri students have if they wish to cross border for studies?

NM: There are already many Kashmiris studying in Pakistan. There are enormous opportunities for them. Every department has reservation for Kashmir students.

KL: As you leave, share some special memories and moments of your stay in Kashmir?

NM:  I have created history by becoming the first Pakistani girl to earn doctorate from Kashmir; this has got to be the high of my stay here. What more can I ask for?

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