In the last decade of our uninterrupted operations, a number of journalists remained associated with Kashmir Life. Some came to pick up the skills, some served as staffers, a few analysed the events in an always-unpredictable Kashmir and so many wordsmiths were around to contribute, every time the desk made a request. A decade later, some of them, managed to jot down a few snippets – on our request – to be part of the first issue of the eleventh year. We thank them all
Jammu and Kashmir
Congratulations to Kashmir Life for completing a decade of uninterrupted publication. I also take pleasure for having had an opportunity to be a part of this journey for a brief moment during its first 10 years of presence on the stands.
For keen observers of Kashmir, the weekly indeed took birth during a phase among many of tumult the ongoing conflict has inflicted on the region. Being a journalist I understand the grit it takes to sustain a media entity in Kashmir where newspapers and magazines must fend attacks on press freedom from many quarters on a daily basis.
For the past three decades, many newspapers in Kashmir have had to navigate a viscous climate where reader expectations are high – as is media education among the highly politicized audiences – and the pressures extreme. Press freedom has unfortunately also come under attack rather frequently during this difficult period from quarters that are usually expected to protect and encourage it.
Sustainability though remains a constant challenge for any newspaper published out of Kashmir where sources of advertising revenue are not many and have sometimes been used to coerce media towards directions that contravene ethics of journalism.
But in the end, it is from the archives of the same media that future historians will also discern the forces that may have attempted to silence strands of public discourse and meanings of some events.
In that sense, Kashmir Life, like many other newspapers, has had to and will need to in future, negotiate a complex matrix of pulls and pressures, just like daily life in the restive region must, in order to survive as a witness and to tell the story.
I hope the weekly will continue to strive for upholding ethics of both journalism and media business for many decades to come. Unlike failure, success is a daily and present challenge, which is best taken riding on ethics.
Wish colleagues at Kashmir Life all the best in their continuing endeavour.
(Bukhari led the newsroom at one point of time.)
International Opinion Editor,
The New York Times,
Ten years of Kashmir Life is a milestone for our society. Its first decade as a weekly magazine has coincided with a time of global transition in the production and dissemination of news and opinion. When the first issue of Kashmir Life came out in 2009, the role of social media and the internet was still limited in our part of the world. In the ten years that passed, internet platforms became the dominant venues for information and discussion. And in Kashmir, the challenge of producing a weekly magazine of high-quality reporting and analysis, which comprehensively covers all aspects of our society and polity, was an increasingly difficult task.
It is in this context, that we have to celebrate the twin achievements of Kashmir Life, Masood Hussain, its guiding light and his team of journalists.
Kashmir Life managed to raise the bar on rigorously reporting the horrors visited upon the land and the less dramatic but important political and economic processes. It devoted pages to highlight opportunities for scholarships for our young, celebrated and inspired the Kashmiris’ who were able to chart a path and find a place in the broader world.
And as good institutions do, it trained a generation of young men and women in the craft of journalism. Many of those won prestigious scholarships and went on to build successful careers and lives elsewhere. But the void was always filled by Masood Hussain and his colleagues relentlessly teaching and training a new batch of young people with hopes of telling stories.
I have been a devoted reader for the last ten years and hope to continue reading it in the years to come. I truly hope it flourishes and succeeds beyond all expectations and continues holding a mirror to our home.
(The very first issue of Kashmir Life carried Peer’s famous story about the bride with a bomb.)
The Quint, The Citizen
A tragic accident that almost killed me, coupled with concerns for my ageing parents, brought me back to Kashmir in the hot summer of 2012. I had worked with a major national daily where I reported on crime and national security. Naturally, friends and well-wishers cautioned it would be a ‘suicidal move’ to leave a lucrative career in New Delhi and return to a place where journalism had turned into ‘fish market’.
When I joined Kashmir Life, it was an overwhelming moment for many reasons. First, I was back to Srinagar’s Press Enclave, a place that had shaped the perception of journalism in the mind of a biochemistry graduate that I am. I was happily back to return the debt for giving wings, once upon a time, to the career of a rookie.
Second, Kashmir, my home, whose sufferings made me suffer and whose pain caused pain in me, looked like a sad bride. I wanted to share her sorrows as well as her joys.
Thirdly, for an editor, the best thing, besides a fat salary, is editorial independence. While media has mushroomed in Jammu and Kashmir in the past two decades, the standard of journalism has been falling, sadly. In times of WhatsApp and Facebook, good journalism has been held hostage by business and political interests of media owners.
However, that was not the case at Kashmir Life. Masood Hussain gave us complete editorial independence to decide on the issues that people need to read about. We were a bunch of young people and he handheld us on the path of dispassionate reporting while upholding the cardinal rule of objectivity. His vast knowledge of Kashmir politics and economy leaves you awestruck. He is a repository of wisdom and perhaps the best mentor one can hope to have in your early years.
As an editor, it was a real joy to work with the young team at Kashmir Life, especially Shams Irfan, Sameer Yasir, Bilal Bahadur, Syed Asma, Bilal Handoo, Saima Bhat, Junaid Bazaz, Ruwa Shah, Sana Fazili, and many, many others. And who can forget the old Khan Saheb and his Friday suppers! I may have hurt some of you during my less than two-year stint but I don’t regret it, because it was purely to see you as better professionals.
Learning to write good, solid, fact-filled copies, week after week, can be an emotionally draining exercise. Sometimes, even owners take the efforts of an editor for granted. Nevertheless, it makes me happy to see the fellow Lifeians doing incredible work for their bruised, battered homeland. Nothing can be more gratifying.
I remember when I joined Kashmir Life, it had some 2000 odd followers on Facebook. When I left, on a bitter note, sadly, we had grown to some 20k plus. Today it makes me proud to see Kashmir Life having over a million Facebook followers. I remember Masood saheb once breaking into the newsroom to announce that the number of monthly unique viewers had crossed million mark. I shared his sense of joy with a sense of achievement and great humility.
Though Life has now grown into a vital and valuable asset in Kashmir journalism, I am appalled, sometimes, by the standards of English language used by the editors. This is something that the management needs to look into. With stature comes great responsibility. You can’t afford not to tell the readers the difference between ‘patting the chest’ and ‘thumping the back’ even if you don’t know the difference. A comma at a wrong place can get you killed. You can certainly do better than that!
May Kashmir Life continue to ‘inspire to aspire’!
(Jehangir Ali was Associate Editor of Kashmir Life.)
Free Press Kashmir.
As a fresh media pass-out in a sun-drenched spring afternoon in 2012, I was roaming Srinagar’s famed Bund, grappling with thoughts of uncertain future ahead of me. In that wanderlust instant, the bitter reality of the real world had dawned hard on me.
As a rookie, I was desperately looking for some media gigs, which to my chagrin weren’t forthcoming. Srinagar’s small and countable newsrooms were behaving like tightly-controlled units. Greenhorns were hardly welcome. This experience was something, which media school hardly taught you then.
That day, during a pep talk at Jhelum riverbank, Kashmir Life sprang up. “They welcome ideas there,” a friend, then freelancing with the publication, said. “Why don’t you pay them a visit?”
Within the next 15 minutes, I was inside Kashmir Life office, which I eventually left at the fag-end of 2016, when another summer storm thawed in the valley.
In between that eager entry and quiet exit, I was part of the five-year-long eventful journey with the publication that took pride in producing the ‘out-of-box’ stories every week.
It was a thrill, at times, a pure madness, to match the newsroom standards set by my predecessors and colleagues. It was equally tough task at hand, given the man in command and his regimental methods. With over three-decade media experience, Masood Hussain means business.
This attitude, I believe, made Kashmir Life a dynamic unit that churned some rare stories. Today, Kashmir Life archives—the huge repository of knowledge and history—proudly houses that labour of love, for the world to see and explore.
For me, Kashmir Life’s 10th anniversary is an occasion to celebrate the special love for the organisation—making many of us to spent sleepless nights, sacrifice vacations and even skip special family occasions.
This is to say that history-making isn’t easy—it never was! It always took that extra-effort from its makers. Kashmir Life’s half a decade journey that unfolded in front of me, was built, brick by brick, with the great sense of devotion, determination and dedication.
And this commitment was there for a reason.
Kashmir Life was one of those publications, which never shied away to call off people’s bluff—no matter how big moralists they sounded and seemed to their cult followers. It’s the same publication which exposed the terror militia in its own bastion and suffered consequences on its chin. It dispassionately documented different facets of life in Kashmir—something which was never attempted with such regularity and rhythm.
And while many of us were sweeping credits for being the publication faces, there were always some unseen, uncelebrated characters behind it—serving the newsroom with their toil and sweat. One such character was Majeed Khan.
For me, Khan was the cushion support. As final printing in-charge, it was he who would bear the major brunt of my late-night, prolonged deadlines. But then, the fun-loving downtowner would always do the best for the organisation — slog, slog and slog.
And that’s how one should remember and pay tribute to the man on this special occasion. His sacrifice remains unparallel in Kashmir Life’s journey.
But retrospectively speaking, Kashmir Life was more of a fun than a fierce undertaking.
It would intrigue you when even the best story ideas would be butchered during weekly meetings. The choice of story ideas eventually made it a different news venture.
The newsroom, however, always backed my wildest and weirdest story ideas — be them coming from the war-torn Uri peaks to the hushed pockets of the deep south, which were about to explode with renewed rebellion.
The whole point was to carry the strenuous legacy of Kashmir Life newsroom, served by the best in business, with an extra bit of commitment. As I remember it now, it was the time when mediocrity was scoffed at, shunned and snubbed—thus making you, as a reporter, to hunt for the best stories. And that’s how I remember the Kashmir Life’s legacy on completion of its first decade.
Times of India
I began my journey with Kashmir Life as a trainee reporter in 2015. Till the time I was at the University – away from the jarring realities of ground terrain and basking under the indulgent and flexible conventions of student-life – I was pretty sure I could pull off reporting with a deft hand. I had placed immense faith in my capacity to write well. But once pushed into the ground, I realized I was hobbled by a raft of shortcomings.
Writing skill is necessary but not always exclusive requirement to become a good journalist. I had to be equally able to map out a given situation; to be able to frame my questions in close-ended terms to yield open-ended answers; to fight off signs of nervousness when you are ushered into the presence of a very senior official and to be able to put across your point of view; to resist appearing a novice and the risk of getting written off. To be able to pull the chaotic jumble of facts in your mind together into a coherent, readable narration where each element flows seamlessly into another; to be able to decide which fact to consider and which one to abjure.
Honestly, this was not an easy exercise to learn and absorb. It took a great deal of effort, both emotional and mental. Sometimes I felt exhausted. The deadline pressures weighed down on me. I had to strike a balance between the tensions I faced internally and those that exerted the strain externally.
That was not all. Working in a competitive media arena also meant that I had to be able to outperform others to stay relevant and above all, stand out as exceptional. Mobility in this field depends on how you distinguish yourself from others.
Journalism thus is the product of an assortment of techniques and abilities that don’t necessarily always come naturally to a person. A person is poured into a cast until they are moulded into its contours. This is exactly what I experienced at Kashmir Life. I got a chance to come across these challenges. The experience awakened me to the limitations I have borne as a person and enabled me to progressively overcome them.
It is heartening to know that Kashmir Life has completed 10 eventful years. With it’s powerful, insightful and carefully researched special reports and nuanced editorials, this English weekly has carved a niche for itself, and it continues to be a glimmer of hope for fair journalism at a time press freedom is under assault everywhere in the world.
Helmed by Masood Hussain, inarguably one of the most prolific writer and seasoned journalists of his time, Kashmir Life maintains a vibrant newsroom culture, where people of varied background and mooring can work without hassle, exchange ideas, learn and evolve. That was my first impression of Kashmir Life, when I, having returned to India in 2013, after my masters in Journalism at Cardiff University, UK, decided to work with them as a contributing reporter.
There were many wonderful, knowledgeable interactions with the reporters in Kashmir Life, in particular with Shams Irfan, the Associate Editor, who I personally hold in high esteem for his relentless field reportage – a must-have attribute for any journalist. And I can tell from those parleys how much Kashmir Life values and upholds critical thinking and a culture of debate and dissent. Independent investigative reporting is absolutely essential for a free society. Kashmir Life scores a point there, too, as is evident from its innumerable, long-form ground reports that give voice to the disadvantaged and the disempowered.
A quaint office made lively by its zealous, dedicated staff, the experience at Kashmir Life remains with me. And so does Masood saab’s lesson: Approach people and situations without judgement. Let the story exhibit itself.
Jammu and Kashmir
It is heartening to see Kashmir Life celebrating 10 years of its existence. The occasion takes me a decade back when I was part of its reporting team. It is no exaggeration to admit that my best stories were written during my association with Kashmir Life. The work culture in the organisation at its initial stage was thorough professionalism. It was no less a struggle to get the story idea through as Masood sahab would use every trick to belittle your cherished endeavour of a particular story.
But once convinced, he would go to any extent to support you churn out a very informative piece. As I am no more associated with media now, but most of the stories that I will remember for the rest of my life have appeared in Kashmir Life.
(Dar serves the Jammu and Kashmir government.)
University of Kashmir
It gives me immense pleasure to congratulate the entire Kashmir Life family for completing 10 years of publication with such grace and dignity. I contributed in the magazine for five years. It taught me reporting, journalism, politics, introduced me to the society of Kashmir, made me understand the culture of my place and thus nurtured me not only as a journalist but as a person as well.
When I joined Kashmir Life, I was a fresher. Though I had been a part of a few media houses in Kashmir before but only as a freelancer. So, I believe, I started my full-fledged career as a journalist with this magazine. Thus it holds a very special place for me.
I remember my first meeting with Masood Hussain, MH-the boss. I presented the portfolio of my by-lines (not more than a dozen) to him which he very respectfully kept aside and said, “I won’t judge you on this, your job guarantee depends on your performance in our newsroom”.
And it was a fact which I came to know after joining Kashmir Life. My work was never judged on the basis that I was a trainee. Neither was it ever rejected because of my gender. Mentioning gender here was not required but of late there was a smearing campaign against the media industry of being gender exploiters. I am not speaking against those who are exploited or I am not a part of the exploiters either but gender inequality is our society’s larger issue and should be tackled that way. Maligning a single profession is unfair!
We all should remember that the only key for sustenance in any field is hard work and seriousness towards work; the same is true for the media houses and even Kashmir Life.
Kashmir Life’s newsroom is a different universe in itself and a place that I miss the most. I can’t say it better than others but certainly, it is one of the best. The exchange of story ideas in the newsroom, their improvisations and discussing storylines is unmatchable and my most learning experience in Kashmir Life.
Thank you for letting me to be a part of the family, rise and shine!
(Syed Asma left as Coordinating Editor to pursue her scholarship.)
Jammu and Kashmir
When I read the inaugural issue of weekly Kashmir Life a decade ago, I did not expect it to go such a long way. We would call such ventures “nine-day wonder” because many periodicals had come and gone before Kashmir Life hit the stands. But the content and a more powerful way of storytelling made Kashmir Life stand out of the crowd. Kashmir’s fast-growing English language readership was eagerly waiting for a standard opinion newspaper when the Kashmir Life came up with an evocative and powerful information architecture that would satiate the needs of those curious to know the story behind the breaking news. Telling truth to power is considered the core value of modern journalism and the newspaper has often flirted with the red lines to uphold this value to the larger extents of possibility.
What fascinates me more about Kashmir Life is its attempt to re-contextualize the story of Kashmir. In any conflict where the peoples’ narrative is crowded out by the cacophony of state narratives, context becomes the first casualty. Kashmir’s real story has long been de-contextualized and the Kashmir Life has made efforts to not just document the important state decisions but also to provide the right context to the readers.
Kashmir’s journalism industry is still not a lucrative job market yet it works as an incubator where young talent is groomed and enabled to be employed elsewhere in corporate journalism. I am sure the Kashmir Life must have a business model but one would expect from such serious institutions to grow to the extents where they no longer remain a “stop-gap job” for the skilled journalists.
While the Kashmir Life tells the story of misery it doesn’t remain stuck in the cubbyhole of conflict. The stories of young achievers, skilled craftsmen and inspiring strugglers vouch for the newspaper’s versatility and wider focus. The weekly has so far tried to stay true to its title by covering almost all aspects of life in Kashmir. On completing ten years on stands, the editor and his team deserve applaud.
(Riyaz Masroor is a TV host and a public speaker. He has contributed a lot of analysis and opinion to Kashmir Life.)
Bisma Ali Tenzu
First of all, I would like to congratulate Kashmir Life team for the completion of 10 years. I am doing great with my career Alhumdulillah. Working with Kashmir Life had been a process of great learning. Remembering my period with Kashmir Life reminds me how this organisation has made me learn how to be fair, balanced and accurate. I have learned news values and how to identify a news story. Kashmir Life helped me in gaining both confidence and competence in writing under deadline pressures. What kind of information makes news and why? As a budding journalist, I was put through a process of learning how one is responsible for the accuracy and integrity before it is served to the public domain. I wish all the best the team for putting up all the efforts even when there is a lot happening in Kashmir. Be safe and a big thank you for bringing us the unbiased coverage.
(Tenzu interned with Kashmir Life and joined NDTV for three and a half years before getting in to the Harvest TV.)
New York Times
I started working at Kashmir Life as an assistant editor in the year 2011 thinking that it would give me a much needed ‘introspection time’ to become a better photographer.
Before that, I had worked both as a photographer and reporter for a few newspapers, which always felt like being a double agent.
But the time that I spent at Kashmir Life absolutely changed me as a storyteller. It made me a better writer and, of course, a better person. It instilled in me some great leadership qualities that helped me achieve some important milestones later in my life. I am still grateful for what I learned along the way.
It was great to work at Kashmir Life for several reasons. One, it was the only serious news magazine that, for the first time, introduced the idea of long-form journalism in English in Kashmir, and two, it helped me develop skills that I obviously had not picked up at the J-school. Earlier, I had believed that whatever we learn in the classroom becomes naturally applicable to the field and I was so wrong.
One of the most important things that I learned at the Kashmir Life was to meet deadlines. Earlier, I had never cared about meeting deadlines. So in a way, working at Kashmir Life disciplined me for my future that I’ll always be indebted for.
Another great thing about working at Kashmir Life was the absolute freedom that I was given by my editor, which certainly helped me and my team to produce a better output every time.
And finally, I must confess that Kashmir Life’s newsroom is a place where fun is the norm! In a cool environment like that the notions of hierarchy somehow take a backseat and everyone puts their efforts to work as a unit which, I think, has been the key for its great success.
I am so overwhelmed that Kashmir Life has completed 10 years since it took out its first issue. I’ll always cherish the time that I spent working here. I wish Kashmir Life a great future ahead and pray that the bond it has been able to build with the common masses lasts a lifetime.
(Showkat Nanda is an award-winning documentary photographer and instructor.)
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
Islamic University of Science and Technology (Awantipora)
My connection with the Kashmir Life has been more emotional than professional; maybe because both I and Kashmir Life took off our respective journeys of journalism together; almost the same day, and maybe with the same set of anxieties that any new beginning brings with itself.
It did not take much for this place to become my second home. Fortunately, the organization had found some of the best people at the desk, and it was fun, thrill and a great learning experience to work with them.
Quite experimental in its approach, Kashmir Life gave me freedom and allowed me to sneak into the quietest corners of old city Srinagar where I found some of the most beautiful and untold stories of Kashmir.
And it did not stop here! Seeing my interest in feature writing, a new feature page was introduced in the newsmagazine. Once I completed my three weeks of internship, I unsurprisingly continued as a correspondent. I neither asked for a job nor was I offered one, it was evident and understood. The organization and I had become important parts of each other.
In Kashmir Life, I discovered myself and my interest in gendered sensitive journalism. I did some of my favourite stories about Kashmiri women and I am sure that those stories would not have seen the light of the day if it was not the support of organization and editors. Some stories took longer than the usual but stories were always important than the deadline pressures.
As is not with most of the organization, the boss, Masood Hussain, would always remind us that Kashmir Life was and should be taken as a launching pad and should be used for achieving bigger goals. And I, without any doubt, believe that it was my work at Kashmir Life, especially stories about Kashmiri women that fetched me the prestigious Ford Fellowship and bunch of reporting projects and media awards later.
I owe a lot of my writing to this organization and I have a strong belief that it will achieve even bigger heights in future. I wish Kashmir Life all the best.
(Shazia Yousuf is a freelance journalist. She currently teaches at the journalism department of Islamic University)
My association with Kashmir Life started with Murder Most Foul, a story about the Shopian alleged rape and double murder case in 2009.
Since then I saw Kashmir Life growing into a reputed weekly magazine, which I am sure is the largest read online, making it a credible Kashmir reference world over.
There are countless things I really enjoyed about my work at Kashmir Life, making it a very memorable experience for me.
I found Kashmir Life as a different media organization in all possible ways. My journey at Kashmir Life started with some known and unknown people, but during the course of the journey, we all became friends. I loved the platform too with so much friendly and professional atmosphere that once I thought of staying there forever because the feel of exploring journalism is well felt at Kashmir Life.
Although there are limited opportunities for journalists in Kashmir, yet a quick search will reveal that the platform of Kashmir Life has achieved its place in the first row and it is maintaining it successfully for last one decade now. Leave the local parameters, I am informed by my friends living abroad that they know Kashmir Life as a credible news source.
Apart from reporting and writing gigs, Kashmir Life has proved a supportive platform for those who worked there. Interestingly, Kashmir Life has tied its employees in a strong friendly relation.
My time at Kashmir Life had introduced me to the workings of a team which taught me basic skills of English reporting as I had recently switched over from Urdu.
In addition to the editorial experience, Kashmir Life taught me to be flexible, which I don’t know did affect my professional work, but, yes it helped me to remain open to new experiences.
Entry-level journalists often need administrative support, and getting that right not only takes the pressure off but is vital for the professional performance as well. Let me acknowledge all kind of support of Kashmir Life to its employees who proved its wings in the real sense.
As a staffer at Kashmir Life from 2012 to 2015, I really enjoyed the working module of the reputed media organisation of the state which I saw positive in approach and helping in distress. It was a four years trek to the murky Kashmir journalism where state and non-state actors always remain ready against journalists with their own set of rules. Kashmir Life taught me practically how to face all the actors making the trek remarkably awesome.
New York Times
I had gone to attend the wedding of Wajahat Ahmad, a friend, to the scenic village of Seer, a palette of apple trees and rice paddies on the Khanabal-Pahalgam road. In the evening, his brother, Bashraat Peer, asked me to drive him down to the town to receive friends, who had travelled by road from Delhi to attend the wedding.
It was the first time I had met Mr Peer, now a staff editor in the opinion section of the New York Times. He wore a black Nehru jacket and a Pakistani Shalwar Kameez, which on the next day I ruined while ironing it. He had just written a coming of an age memoir on Kashmir, Curfewed Night. A star was born. And I was awestruck.
‘Would you like to leave the university and become a full-time reporter,’ Mr Peer asked, as he caressed his silky hair and lit up a cigarette. I looked at him and said nothing. “I can ask Masood,” he continued.
Three days later, we negotiated through a busy residency road and straight to the Press Colony. We climbed two storey and to the dark yellow painted room to meet a man I had never met before. He sat on a tattered moving chair in a white Shalwar Kameez typing, furiously, on a black Lenovo ThinkPad, a row of files, like a government revenue office line behind him on a shelf. This was Masood Hussain.
‘Do you have a story idea,’ he asked. I had none. ‘Come on Friday evening and bring a baggy trouser. We work late, you can also sleep here,” he continued.
I had returned to Kashmir just four months ago leaving a comfortable life and good paying job. When you are 25, you don’t do that mistake. I did it for my parents, and I have no regrets. I had just got a new “job” at an upcoming Islamic University, but it paid half of the amount I would spend on the taxi for a month to commute at many previous job. I needed an extra income; I was desperately searching for it in the restricted Kashmiri market. Then I arrived at Kashmir Life.
I did not become a reporter because I wanted to do social work. I was, and still, do, it as a job, which can feed me. I badly wanted to make a decent living and I first wrote a travelogue, and this is how I started my journalism career.
Before arriving in Kashmir, I had worked in a think tank, managing its websites and organizing retreats for pacific leaders. I had no experience in journalism. But the man who ran it never made me feel alien. For the next many months, I proof-read the magazine, wrote reporting pieces, had fun with two amazing people working there.
Later, I moved on to be a freelancer at Firstpost and The Wall Street Journal.
I cover Kashmir for the South Asian Bureau of the New York Times now, but whenever I feel short of courage to report on a certain issue I always go back to Kashmir Life. Those were the days when we would get paid a one rupee per word. These days, I end up spending one lakh on a story, and for writing it double the amount. But the joy one would get after receiving those 1500 a month is not even in one lakh of today.
Kashmir Life’s newsroom had, and still has, a very special place in my heart. It is the first and the last publication based in Kashmir I worked for. We were not just trained what I call the “other journalism,’ which few in Kashmir knew at that time, but we also cooked food here with the Great Majeed Sahib, who was the soul of those three rooms.
Every Friday, he would distribute pieces of mutton, one per person and a single piece of potato, like an over-cautious mother to her children. We always made a laugh looking at the black thick eyebrows of Majid Sahib when the then designer insisted to have curd. It was fun. The boss, with a grin and a brow and his hands on head, would arrive at 2 am in the morning and look at the face of Majid Maqbool, the awarding winning photographer Showkat Nanda and the man who edited the paper Jehangir Ali and shout: are we hitting the market tomorrow?
The magazine was a financial draining project. It struggled – I had to once pull out money from savings to pay the staff- the money was returned in a few months. It was not a rich institution, like it is now when it came to finances, but never ever was any reporter’s remuneration stopped.
And Mr Hussain is, undoubtedly, living and walking encyclopedia, on not just Kashmir politics but also its withered economy, who attracted people like me and gave us courage.
Despite problems, this magazine has produced some of the best narrative pieces on Kashmir. Its problem, in recent years, has been the sub-editing, not just on the web, but in the magazine too. Its website, particularly the daily news section, has done tremendously well. But one has often noticed the grave mistakes in its language, which sometimes you can also blame in the way the technology-driven journalism is these days.
Despite all this to survive ten years in Kashmir as an independent publication is a huge challenge. And I, for sure, can tell you this would not have been possible without that man with grey hair and head down, thinking where to get the next advertisement and also of a possible in-depth feature.
There were movements of joy, of tribulations, of self-improvement, and introspection. We fail, we learn and we move on. But institutions don’t stop breathing after the individual move that is a reality. And the morning arrival of Kashmir Life in your home symbolizes just that.
My best wishes.
Junaid Nabi Bazaz
I became part of the Kashmir Life newsroom in 2011. That time the only successful weekly magazine (and continues till now) in Kashmir had outgrown its age in performance. It had the best journalist team, of whom; many had earned prestigious fellowships at universities in the developed world. It successfully managed to operate during 2010 uprising when going to print was difficult.
I was just 19, in the second year of journalism bachelor’s course, and the youngest in the organisation. I had grit, passion, and hard work. Kashmir Life gave me an opportunity to harness my physical and mental strength. It gave me clarity, confidence, fulfilment, money and flow. I picked up the rest of the journalism skills during my two-year-long beautiful, hardworking, and productive association with the organisation. For me, a journalism class at the university taught me theory, and Kashmir Life was the lab to see how practical that theory is. I have been in journalism for more than eight years now. I continue to figure out how journalism theories which are mostly from the west are a mismatch in our part of the world.
A journalist should have the freedom to freely think, question, and report and these are key requirements in a collaborative, encouraging, and progressive newsroom. At Life, this culture gave impetus to my inner self to delve into constructs, which are not questioned by Kashmir society.
I reported on rarely questioned practices of Kashmir society by religious sects. I was allowed to report Missing identity, a long and perhaps the first ever narrative on Kashmir’s third gender that highlighted their plight. Kashmir Life chose it as a cover story at a time when even questioning about demonising, dissocialising, and decriminalising of all LGBTQ community is articulated as variance from the Islamic faith. The story did in some way bring confidence to light that they choose to speak up. Three years after the story was published the same characters that chose to remain anonymous in my story for Kashmir Life spoke publicly. The government was moved, and the ball for their empowerment was set. A lot is needed to be done.
Today, on its anniversary, when I look at Kashmir Life, I still see it has outgrown its age in quality, productivity, and reportage. It successfully runs when its competitors have closed, has become one of the foremost visible voices in the virtual world, and has maintained it’s in-depth, uncovered reporting, freely, fairly and fearlessly. Building an institution with these values in a market-driven economy, punctuated with killings, curfews, government censorship, and even threats of banning a media is a ball game only few can play. I wish Kashmir Life best of luck for its endeavours.
I joined Kashmir Life in mid-2015. It was after spending a lot of time sitting home that I got a job thus making me nervous about a job that probably required more from me. I was joining a news magazine.
I had interned with a business newspaper in New Delhi before returning to Kashmir, and after nearly eight months, joined Kashmir Life.
On the first day at Kashmir Life newsroom, I was scared because I didn’t know what kind of news piece I was going to write about.
And then, just two days later, it was routine edit meet on the weekend.
Such weekly meetings have been best memories of my little journey as a journalist, so far. The brainstorming, the story ideas and the discussions thereupon, have helped me a long way in growing as a reporter.
During my first meeting, I was immediately assigned to work in the online news section of Kashmir Life where I would contribute besides working for magazine stories. I was thrown off right away by the amount of work a writer does for the paper. I started remaining busy just from start but I didn’t mind it.
The following week, my name appeared for the first time in Kashmir Life. It was excitement beyond words.
Every week remained the same. I was given assignments, I would do them and then they’d get published. I worked out a schedule for working both in and out of the office.
Eventually, I did feel overwhelmed. I never anticipated the amount of work a reporter does for just a single story. I was spending a lot of time meeting people, holding interviews, phone calls, events and especially driving around. Every day, I had to be somewhere and the next day I had to write about it.
Practically, Kashmir Life has been my first school of journalism. I learnt a lot about myself and my writing. I learned what I enjoy writing about and what I don’t, what I’m good at, bad at, and where I could improve.
In a newsroom where everyone was constantly on the go, I was shuffled around more than a deck of cards. I shuffled from being a cub reporter to a correspondent to the web editor, researcher and also looked after the affairs of social media. This may sound hectic to some, but for me, it was the best way to learn as much as possible.
In my nearly three years of association with Kashmir Life, I not only learned about the various facets of the organisation, but I also got to try them out as well. I wore many caps that now when I go to employers, I can fit in for any newspaper reporting or desk job at the drop of the hat!
Kashmir Life newsroom, inarguably, was not a typical newsroom but more of a family drawing room where one could share ideas, discuss politics and conflict at will and explicitly.
The Friday evenings, when the magazine goes for final proof and then to print, has been another exciting experience at Kashmir Life.
The collective efforts of the whole newsroom including Kashmir Life boss Masood sir, ‘artistic’ Shams Irfan, ‘poetic’ Bilal Handoo, ‘energetic’ Riyaz, Kaisar, Khan saeb, Suhail and Fayaz to produce the magazine has been another great, lifelong experience at the magazine.
Little struggle with then news coordinator Syed Asma, and later Saima Bhat during my stint at Kashmir Life, to not list my stories (I never completed them on time) for the week, to pleading with the duo about listing my stories as “submitted” which I completed days later are integral to my memories from Kashmir Life newsroom.
Now, when Kashmir Life completes a decade of glory in Kashmir’s media industry, the wider recognition it has achieved in Jammu and Kashmir particularly in the valley is unprecedented.
I call it journalists’ newspaper because of its creditability as an “authentic” source of news and views. Kashmir Life has arguably reported Kashmir, the prevailing conflict, facets of society, culture and art with utmost professionalism and grace.
Despite the financial constraints in the conflict-ridden valley, the survival of Kashmir Life has been primarily because of its legacy and committed leadership. Masood sir’s dedication and immense leg work to develop this glorious magazine into a vibrant institution is commendable. Kashmir Life with all my experiences and associations with Kashmir Life, it will always remain close to my heart. Bests!
Kashmir Life gave me my first job. In other words, it gave a fresh journalism pass out like me an immense opportunity to go out in the field and bring out stories. It’s one of the few professional newsrooms in Kashmir with strong editorial leadership and experience. Be it archives, rare information or any other important record, Kashmir Life ensures every possible resource available under its limited capacity, is kept at the disposal of a reporter.
Not only did I become familiar with the newsroom environment, but there’s also always someone who you can look up to at the time of confusion or doubt. From ideation to building contacts, Kashmir Life played an essential role in developing my skill set and professionalism.
There’s an unparalleled sense of attachment one develops with the organizational setup at Kashmir Life. Even if one’s no longer working with the organization, you are never a stranger. One can just walk-in anytime and take whatever help is required. Kashmir Life will always remain like a second home for me. The relationships forged during my employment at Kashmir Life haven’t become old with time. They are still intact and flourishing.
There’s no better place for in-depth journalism in Kashmir than Kashmir Life. If anyone wants to groom as a sharp and inquisitive journalist, do attend Saturday’s editorial meetings every week – religiously.
Even though I worked at Kashmir Life for only nine months, it will always remain an unforgettable experience of my journalistic journey.
All the best!
Institute of Kashmir Studies
University of Kashmir
It is a momentous occasion that the news magazine has completed a decade and that it has firmly established itself as a key node for contemporary discourses on Kashmir; journalistic, political, and historical, but above all people-centric.
My engagements with the processes, practices, people and principles at Kashmir Life have set a profound impression on my professional, personal and academic growth. In particular, the support and flip provided to young media persons, journalism students and scholars has been phenomenal, and many of us couldn’t have found better initiatory platforms.
We also know that along this trajectory, the magazine has had to deal with a number of serious challenges and problems on multiple fronts, some of which may have resembled momentary episodes of crisis. But from each such crisis, the magazine seems to have emerged with greater emphasis on its ethics and quality.
What is also remarkable is that the magazine has never sought to disrupt media locales and nodes, but has always strived to strengthen the foundations of the institution of journalism in the valley.
The Globe Post
Completing a decade of publication is an achievement for any weekly publication. Kashmir Life started at a time when there was a vacuum – and also readership – for a quality weekly magazine that offered more than just news and views covered by newspapers.
Kashmir Life tried to fill that void with enthusiasm. I remember my brief stint in the initial years of the publication in a small but vibrant newsroom. It was filled with a talented bunch of young and experienced reporters and editors who worked hard as a team to carve a respectable space for in-depth stories, and thus, for Kashmir Life. Many of us moved on to other roles in other publications in the subsequent years. But Kashmir Life remains there, consistently hitting the stands every week. It has covered a wide spectrum of life and times in Kashmir despite several challenges, shortcomings, and a difficult working environment for magazine journalism to thrive in Kashmir. That it has survived so far is in itself an achievement.
During all these years, Kashmir Life has been offering in-depth stories and ground reportage on a variety of issues concerning contemporary Kashmir. Kashmir Life has tried to cover all aspects of the conflict, its humanitarian fallout, and also the politics, governance, history, economy, and the social and cultural life of this region. Several theme-based issues published from time to time have also been a welcome addition.
And yet, a lot remains to be done –and a lot can be done better – in the coming years and decade ahead. Hitting the ten-year mark of successful publication is also an occasion to reflect, think about and plan a new vision for the publication to survive in the years ahead given the competition.
We are living in an age of information excess or overflow, most of it unverified. News breaks out on social media platforms seconds after it has actually happened, and before it can be covered by news agencies. People are already informed. They want to be better informed. The role of weekly publications like Kashmir Life, especially in its print edition, shouldn’t be just to inform or cover the news as it is which has already reached the readers. A reader of a weekly magazine would rather want to know the context behind the news, a threadbare analysis of what happened, and what the event or a particular issue means for his future. And all of this should be laid out and clearly presented in print, with a layout design that complements well the content offered in each issue. A weekly publication should offer a healthy mix of expert analysis, ground reports, and coverage of all aspects concerning everyday life. A discerning reader would also expect the social, cultural and literary life covered well in its pages.
A weekly publication cannot just be content with informing readers. Its role also is to educate readers and offer nuanced coverage of all aspects of social, political and economic life. Every issue should offer something unique for every reader week after week after week. That’s the challenge the staff and the editor should accept and try to deliver on. The content offered in every issue should make the reader curious and look forward to picking up the next week’s issue.
For content improvement I would suggest, for example, to bring back that Life Story feature section every week. It used to be a regular feature in the previous years, offering unique human interest stories reported from across Kashmir region. Many readers look forward to reading only such stories. In my view, there’s also a growing number of readers in Kashmir, and outside Kashmir, who want to read about what’s right in Kashmir, and what can be set right in a place where negativity and saddening, terrible news is always around the corner. People also want to read stories that reflect the dignity, resilience and success stories of ordinary people shining under difficult circumstances. We are more than just victims. People are also curious about positive developments and inspirational stories of ordinary people that can be found, and reported from, across Kashmir.
Improving the opinion and op-ed pages should also be a priority for future issues. Coverage of school, college and university education, and its attendant issues can be improved as it will always find readers, especially among students. In the opinion and op-ed section, give space to new voices, young writers, and academics who can offer fresh, informed, and well-argued perspectives. Also, I would suggest planning and publishing together views and counter-views on the same issue or topic in the same issue. That helps a reader to get a comprehensive understanding of the issue(s) being debated.
In the news section, I would like to see a section named, for example, “Kashmir Life Explains”. This is missing even from our prominent newspapers at a time when such explainers are a regular feature in several international and Indian newspapers and magazines. This can also become a regular weekly feature, unpacking and explaining in a simple language the contentious issue of the week or legal intricacies involved in a particular issue concerning the people in Kashmir.
I am also hopeful that Kashmir Life will work towards further improving, strengthening and investing in more ground reportage and editorial desk. That’s the backbone of a weekly publication. All stories and analysis published should go through at least two rounds of edits, as was the case in the initial years. Readers appreciate that. And if that’s found lacking in print, it reflects in the disinterest of readers, both online and offline.
Kashmir Life, or any other young and established publication in Kashmir, should always think of itself as an institution in the making. That’s the right attitude to keep working and evolving with time, and also a reminder that a lot of work remains to be done. Every story can always be better. Every reporter can always file a better copy. Complacency can only lead to stagnation, and ultimately the loss of readership, even in established publications.
Innovative, better storytelling and constant feedback to enrich and offer better content should be the way forward towards long-term survival, and relevance. Today readers can judge one issue of Kashmir Life, or any other publication, independent of its previous issues or reputation. Readers have choices. Your job is to grab their attention and make them trust you enough to stay with you. They will pick up the copies, buy it from the stands, or read it online, but only if they find some value in it. Every issue should offer something new and engage every reader irrespective of his age.
You are as good as your last issue on the stands. Let every forthcoming issue of Kashmir Life be better than its previous issue. That’s my hope, my sincere prayer as a well-wisher and reader of Kashmir Life.
(The author earlier served Greater Kashmir)