Hailing from Kasur, a small city in Punjab, Pakistan, Nadia Mehardin (31) had been selected under the South Asia Foundation programme.
She had completed her thesis on, 'The Development of Science, Technology, Arts and Language during the Sultanate period in Kashmir'.
Mehardin in an interview with IBNS correspondent Saleem Iqbal Qadri said that she found Kashmiri people very hospitable and enjoyed her stay here.
Excerpts of Mehardin's interview:
Q: Congratulations. How does it feel being the first Pakistani woman to complete a Doctorate from Kashmir valley?
A: Thanks. I never knew that I will be the one whom the Almighty will choose for such an honour. I owe a lot to my nation, my family and the people of Kashmir.
Q: How did you feel during all these years of your stay in Kashmir?
A: The affinity for the people of Pakistan in Kashmir is what provided me an overwhelming support that I never felt being away from home. The love for Pakistani people here is not new. I remember in Pakistan we celebrate Kashmir day, where we sing "Mere watan teri jannat mein aayenge kabhi".
Q: Did you have to face any kind of difficulties during all these years of your stay?
A: Difficulties are found everywhere. Even if I would have been in Pakistan, I would have had to face difficulties of some sorts. The weather conditions here are tough especially in winters. It was a bit hard for me to adjust. But now Alhamdulillah as I have completed my PhD, I have forgotten all the hardships.
Q: Was it hard to convince your family when you chose Kashmir to pursue your studies?
A: Initially, they took it as a joke. Then they didn't agree as they are very strict. But there are a few people who I give credit to for my success; my sister Amber Sherzaman and my late sister Aasiya Mehardin, they helped me convince my parents.
Q: How was the exchange process? What about visa and other formalities?
A: Unfortunately it was too hectic. I had to make countless visits to the Indian embassy in Islamabad, about a day-long ride from my home. Then I had to make the officials understand about the nature of my visit. That was not easy at all.
Q: Did you pay a visit to any other state in India?
A: No, I liked staying at the Kashmir University, going to the Hazratbal shrine for prayers. This University has been like home to me and I was never required to move outside.
Q: How was your experience here with locals?
A: There is a strange emotional attachment and an inexplicable affinity between the people of Kashmir and Pakistan. The people here are so cooperative that I actually never felt like being away from my nation.
Q: Do you plan to visit Kashmir again?
A: (Laughs) Yes I will visit Kashmir and I want to visit the whole valley. I do not want to come here as an ordinary woman, but as a Foreign Minister, and that is my wish and I want to fulfill it.
Q: As you leave, what would you miss the most?
A: I will miss every moment of my stay in Kashmir. I will miss the people, their hospitality, the University campus and Kashmiri wazwaan. This place is really the Paradise on Earth.
--IBNS (Posted on 23-12-2013)