For 16-year-old Jasmina Musharaf, Mumbai will always be the city that showed her stars during the day. A planetarium is unheard of in the small Kashmiri village of Keran where she was born. Her first trip to the Nehru Planetarium on Monday was not just educational, but magical.
Musharaf is one of the 30 Kashmiri orphan girls from the NGO Borderless World Foundation (BWF), who are in Mumbai for a week to see the ‘big city’. Daughters of terror victims and militants, these girls have lost their fathers, been rejected as liabilities by their families, and now live in the three BWF shelters in the Valley.
“I’ve always wanted to become a police inspector, but after seeing the planetarium, I want to become a scientist,” said Musharaf, a Class 11 student who lives in BWF hostel in Kupwara district and meets her mother once a week. “I get a lot more love from the people in my hostel than my own family.”
BWF set up its first shelter homes in Kashmir 13 years ago to rehabilitate fatherless girls abandoned by families. “As a single Hindu man working for young Muslim girls, I aroused a lot of suspicion and hostility,” said Adhik Kadam, founder-trustee of BWF and the girls’ favourite ‘bhaiyya’.
To give the girls a glimpse of a life beyond the violence and terror, Kadam and his team organised a 55-day fun-and-learn vacation for them. They saw the beach in the Konkan, went rappling in Pune, and will soon head to Nashik and Delhi.
But in Mumbai, they can’t get enough of the skyscrapers, malls, local trains and the warmth of their hosts at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. “Girls in Mumbai are allowed to do so many things that we cannot do in Kashmir, like leaving their hair open,” said Sumaira Akhtar (16), who has captured all her Mumbai moments on her camera.
Akhtar, one of the four BWF girls who won the national photography contest organised by the National Council of Education Research and Training, wants to be a professional photographer soon.