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Irfana Ali Bhat from Kashmir speaks about her experiences in Kashmir at a coeducational school as a girl wearing the veil.

The thought of school brings back all the lively moments I spent with my friends and the amazing process of learning. My school nurtured my thought and gave them new dimensions. Co-educational institutions were a rarity in Kashmir at the time and mine was one among them.

I remember I wore a veil then as I wear it now and it was my choice. Though Kashmir is a Muslim dominated region, it is not necessary to put on a veil. My veil is my identity. It has never hindered my growth as people usually think. I played games, participated in debates got good scores in my studies. Now I am a mother of two teen aged kids and a budding poet.

One day while in 9th standard I was busy in the laboratory performing a chemistry experiment. I was a science buff so I was totally engrossed in my work. Just then, we were interrupted by our principal who conveyed that a delegation of foreigners had come to visit the school.

After some time he returned to our lab with 10-12 foreign tourists. They were looking around and I went back to my experiment again losing myself in the colours and fumes of chemicals. There was interruption again and this time it was the clicking of cameras. When I woke up from my trance, I saw that I was the subject of all those photographs.

I was surprised why out of 40 boys and girls in the lab, it was me who was the centre of attention. I remember my cheeks getting really hot. As soon as they left I asked my teacher if he knew the reason for all that attention.

My teacher told me with a smile that it was simple. Since I was the only girl in the class wearing a veil, I was the focus of their attention.  It was a satisfactory answer but there was more I needed to know and I still want to know. Does anyone think that we lose our brains by covering them?

Irfana Ali Bhat


24.07.2012 | 14:13