Growing up in a family of doctors and engineers, it was not easy for her to think beyond these professions. Still, she decided to listen to her heart and do something she loved.
Two decades ago Ishrat Nowshehri chose that many people in Kashmir are still not sure of. Unlike her brother, who is an engineer and two sisters who are doctors, Ishrat decided to swim upstream and be an architect.
Although, Ishrat’s parents wanted her to become a civil engineer but she was more inclined towards the art of designing and drawing since her school days.
“My father was a civil engineer. When he realised that I am more interested in drawings and designing, he and other family members supported me encouraged me in it. For my success, the credit goes to my family,” says Ishrat.
After completing her high school, she enrolled for Bachelors in Architecture at Karnataka University in 1999. It was a five year degree course.
Soon after completing it, she started working with Kashmir’s well-known architect Muneer Khan.
“Under his guidance, I got an opportunity to work on projects of Charar-e-Sharief Shrine and Dental College Srinagar.”
After working with Muneer for some time, Ishrat started her own architectural firm. Over the years, she worked on various projects including designing key government buildings, hotels and residential houses.
Ishrat has designed several buildings at the Kashmir University’s main campus. The buildings housing the Home Science Department, the Distance Education Department, and the Sheikh-ul-Alam Chair all go to her credit.
She has also designed the Kashmir Haat in Srinagar for which she was awarded by the government in 2005.
Now, she is looking to work on designs of various projects of the Tourism Department and J&K Projects Construction Company.
“I work on traditional and contemporary designs. Unlike outside architects, the locals could give better designs as they are well aware of Kashmir’s culture and weather,” she says.
“The outside architects make designs like in Delhi and Mumbai but they don’t merge with our overall ambience.”
Terming gender inequality in the state a myth, Ishrat says that she never found any discrimination while working in Kashmir.
“In fact, people respect when they see me working in the field,” she says.
She believes there is a huge scope in the field of architecture but one needs to have passion and desire to do work.
“You can only prove yourself in this field if you have better imagination, and are good at graphics and drawing. Every new project is an examination for an architect,” she says.
Ishrat, who is believed to be Kashmir’s first female architect, has designed buildings, hotels, residential houses in a career that spans almost 20 years.
She has become an inspiration for many women in Kashmir. A few females have now chosen this profession after witnessing Ishrat’s success.
“Whosoever seeks my advice about choosing architecture as a career, I suggest them to not come forcibly in this field, and only choose it if they have patience and better imagination for designing.”
Ishrat considers it a well-thought out initiative by the government to start schools of architecture in the state.
“The students are no more required to go outside for these courses,” she says.
To mention, the state government has approved setting up of two architecture schools in Jammu and Srinagar, which will offer courses in architecture and designing at the graduate level. In Srinagar, the school will function from Govt Degree College Bemina and in Jammu from the Govt MAM College. Each school of architecture will have an intake capacity of 40 and the maiden session is likely to start from September 2017.
Presently, Ishrat says, there are around 30 to 40 professional architects in Kashmir and there are lot of job opportunities in this field. However, she regrets that many non-professionals have opened their unregistered firms in the valley and give “bad name” to them (professionals).
She asked people to consult right people for designing their houses or hotels.
Women in India seem to have a keen liking for architecture as nearly 44% of the 58,646 registered architects, according to the Council of Architecture, are females.
In the present times, says Ishrat, people across Kashmir are conscious about designing their residential houses and business apartments in the most pleasing and professional way.
“Even people from far-flung areas want modern and environment friendly designs of their houses,” she added.