A group of Kashmiri students pursuing career in medicine have become known faces in Bangladesh’s modeling circuit. The trend is not new for the fair-skinned, good-looking youth from Kashmir, many of whom have made careers in India’s fashion industry, Abdul Wajid reports.
For Kashmiri students who want to get education in the field of medicine, Bangladesh has always been an economically convenient option. While international scholarships for Kashmiri students studying in SAARC countries have caused a spurt in the migration of Kashmiri students to Bangladesh, the phenomenon is not new. What is new and growing is the emergence of young Kashmiri students taking up modeling as a part-time profession in Bangladesh.
Sayim Wani is one such young Kashmiri boy pursuing MBBS from Sir Salimullah Medical College (SSMC) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, under a programme offered to the students from SAARC countries. With a brilliant academic track record and a tedious academic schedule, he keeps himself engaged by modeling for various brands in Bangladesh that include Aarong, Tanjim, Cats Eye, Freeland, O2 and Yellow. His good looks have already won him huge accolades in Bangladesh’s modeling industry.
“I started modelling within six months of my arrival in Dhaka. I had no assistance from anyone, even though some seniors who were engaged in modelling to a certain extent helped me,” said Sayim. He was also seen as a protagonist in a documentary “Guraba” which was shown on the popular video sharing website, Youtube.
“Guraba was the brainchild of my friend, Junaid Ahmed. The documentary reflects the problems of our everyday lives and importance of religion. It is a very well told story and I recommend everyone to watch it,” said Sayim, a resident of Indra Nagar in Sonawar, Srinagar.
To get into modelling and fashion industry is not a new thing for the fair-skinned Kashmiris who are known across the globe for their beautiful and exceptionally good looks. “I came to Bangladesh on a scholarship that promotes exchange of students across South Asia. If I didn’t get involved in a diverse community here, I wouldn’t be utilizing the full opportunity I’ve been privileged to get,” said Owais Makhdoomi, a final year MBBS student and a Kashmiri model in Dhaka.
A well-known Kashmiri name in Bangladeshi fashion industry is Tariq Dar who was one of the super-models of Bangladesh. He was mistakenly accused in a terror case and jailed in India. A court later cleared him of all the charges and set him free, “Tariq is a very well-known model of Dhaka who has a huge fan following. But he had to face a tough time because he was accused of being a cadre of some militant group. The charges against him were never proved. Currently he is pursuing modelling in India itself,” says Sayim.
Like Sayim, there are five other Kashmiri medical students pursuing MBBS degrees who are modeling for prominent brands in Bangladesh like Cats Eye, Grameen Phone, Tanjim, UCB bank, O2, D&G, Westecs, Trendz, Ecstacy and Canvas. After Sayim, Moin Durani and Owais Makhdoomi are other Kashmiri names in Bangladesh’s modeling circuit. Both Moin and Owais are currently the most senior in their league after Sayim. They are followed by other three Kashmiri boys – Aamir Wani, Khawar Nissar and another young Kashmiri.
Although Bangladeshi fashion industry is still in its infancy with its own limitations as being a part of a conservative Muslim society, the Kashmiri boys involved in modelling believe that the Bangladeshi models and fashion designers are very talented. A competition is also growing between the Kashmiri and the Bangladeshi models.
“We share a good rapport with other Bengali models and the fashion industry welcomes us with open arms,” said Sayim. Although a competition is growing but Kashmiri models like Amir QWani consider their Bangla aides as underdogs. “The competition with the Bangladeshi models is not very tough because we have certain inherent features which they won’t find in any of the local models,” says Amir, a resident of Soura, who is also pursuing MBBS in Bangladesh.
Regarding the onset of this upcoming trend of modelling in Bangladesh, almost all the models share similar story. The boys say their fine looks were noticed by various parties involved in fashion industry who proposed them to join their projects. “Actually I was sitting at a well known cafe in Dhaka when a prominent fashion choreographer came to me and asked me if I could walk for his upcoming show,” Sayim says about his entry into modelling.
For Amir Wani, modelling started as a source of recreation and money to support his expenses in a foreign country. “I get paid and that assists my expenses. Studies are my first priority. I avoid modelling during my exams and college hours,” he says.
Although many Kashmiris in Bangladesh started modeling as a recreational activity but the trend is spreading and more Kashmiris are joining. “Based on numbers that I have seen, I think there are more Kashmiri students who are modelling in Bangladesh now than at any other time,” said Owais.
Most of the boys were reluctant to talk about their life in Kashmir and their parents but Sayim spoke out. He said his parents had no problems with him joining modelling industry. “My dad is really ecstatic about it only as far as my studies are not hampered. He has preserved a collection of magazines where my pictures have appeared.” As Sayim broke the ice, Aamir shared an incident, “After a big pause, my parents nodded and with time it got better. Now they don’t have any objections as long as my studies are going well.”
For a number of young people in Kashmir, modeling is a lucrative carrier option which offers a life of glamour. Many Kashmiri faces are already well-known in Indian modeling industry and Bollywood. But the Kashmir-Bangla models are content with pursuing modeling as a recreational activity only. When asked about the future prospectus of his modeling, Amir said, “I am already pursuing a career in medicine. I just want to be a doctor. I don’t think there is much in the field of modelling in Kashmir,” he said.
With less scope of making a career in modelling in Kashmir, the trend is nevertheless growing for Kashmiris in Bangladesh. While it serves the purpose of recreation and quick pocket-money for the students, the future-doctors are not interested in opting for modelling as their career or to let modelling interfere with their studies. “We don’t have good designers in Kashmir. And even if there are, they don’t really feel a need of showcasing their designs. I don’t think Kashmiris are ready for this yet since it is going to have implications on all spheres of social and religious life,” Sayim said with a smile.
“I still consider Kashmir to be a very conservative place.”