September 2014, when the devastating floods ravaged Kashmir, chances of us Kashmiris overcoming the loss looked bleak. Harsh winters were coming, with tens of thousands of houses razed to ground rendering so many people homeless, an even bigger tragedy seemed inevitable.
However, the fighting spirit of Kashmiris makes us look to the storm in the eye and overcome it together. ‘ittifaaq’ is what defines us. Everyone got together and made efforts to the best of one’s capacity and ensured that we rise again.
2016 hit us with an even bigger calamity but our fighting spirit was alive. Volunteers’ camps outside hospitals, the ambulance drivers braving the pellet-shelling and baton charging by troops were the heroes.
After the bloodshed ended, Nida Rehman, an alumni of Kashmir University, overheard a conversation between two taxi drivers discussing how they couldn’t support their children’s education as they cannot afford the stationary and how difficult it was becoming for them to sustain their families due to lack of work in the summer.
This broke Nida and she wanted to do something for them. She posted her experience on social media and got a very positive response from her friends.
This is the moment when your friends are the best people to talk to, and that’s when brainstorming sessions happened and ‘Gaash'( Kashmiri for light) was born. Nida and her friends took a rough data from the nearby taxi stand and started collecting notebooks and other basic stationary from peer groups to be distributed among the drivers there.
Soon this campaign gained popularity over social media and support started pouring in from Kashmiris all around.
As I write this, there’s a verse that resonates in the back of mind
“Tareekh ka jab bhi rukh badla, badla hai hamee deewano ney”
Whenever history changed its course, it is us passionate youth who’ve made it happen!
“We visited exchange road taxi stand and uploaded data on social media to create awareness about the impact of unrest in the transport sector. We were informed that 70 per cent people operate vehicles of others and work on a commission basis”, says Nida.
Nida has found several like-minded people on social media who are helping raise awareness about the campaign. Javid Parsa, popular entrepreneur and social worker from Kashmir lend his support to the cause and dozens of people have come up to his workplace for donations, some of them even wishing not to be named.
Nida and her team are hopeful of covering an entire bus stand in the next consignment where they are going to supply books, notebooks, school bags and other stationary items among cash-starved bus drivers, cleaners, conductors as well as the owners.
As the campaign grows, the donations can be spread to other bus stands as well.
So the next time anyone tells you to define ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Baradari’; tell them Kashmir is ‘Gaash’ (light) and Baradari is ‘Ittifaaq’ (unity).
Want to donate something to campaign? Drop your donations at:
Kathi Junction Sarah City Centre
The Other Side Cafe Sarah City Center
Goodfellas The Bund Srinagar
Chilliz Kashmir University, Hazratbal
Winterfell Cafe The Boulevard
Modest Attires Bemina, Srinag