Though this blog is more about design and art, but once in a while you are compelled to deviate from your usual routine to introduce something that demands you to do so, and that is the case here.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, about her book, “The Life of a Kashmiri Woman: Dialectic of Resistance and Accommodation”. This book is about Dr. Khan’s maternal grandmother “Akbar Jahan”, nationalist and social and political activist. She was the first president of Jammu & Kashmir Red Cross, Member of Indian Parliament, first lady of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, a daughter, a wife, a mother and a grandmother.
In my humble opinion Akbar Jahan got a special gene from her mother, “Mirjan”. Mirjan a Kashmiri Muslim women from an aristocratic family married an Austrian, Michael Harry Nedou, son of a European hotel chain owner in India, when in Indian subcontinent, it was unheard of to marry an out of cast person, let alone a European.
Akbar Jahan c.a. 1933
|Akbar Jahan's grandfather; Michael Adam Nedou|
Dr. Khan takes us through the extraordinary life of an extraordinary woman, who left a life of privilege to marry a young Indian/Kashmiri politician Sheikh Abdullah. Together they went on to a journey to get Kashmir and it’s people their right of self determination in the wake of partition of India by the British into two countries; India and Pakistan. Kashmir, which was until then an independent princely state, got consumed into the bitter politics of the two new states and got divided.
Akbar Jahan went through a roller coaster ride from the First Lady of the state of Kashmir to the wife of an exiled Prime Minister, who could not live in her own house when it was sealed off on the behest of the Indian Federal Government. She was steadfast and determined in all the trials and tribulations, and carried out her duties as a wife, as a mother and as a political figure.
This is 2015, we still have not realized that women are born equal; as a matter of fact we have yet to realize that all humans are born equal. Perhaps we need more Akbar Jahan in our world to make it a better place for all of us humans present and future.
(Nyla Ali Khan is a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma and member of the Harvard-based Scholars Strategy Network. She is the author of The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, and The Life of a Kashmiri Woman. She is also the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir, a contributor to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women (2013), and a guest editor for Oxford Islamic Studies Online).