Chai Banani Aati Hai Aap Ko?

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Chai Banani Aati Hai Aap Ko?

Chai Banani Aati Hai Aap Ko?

Nilofar Masood

 

Top Lawyer Of Baramulla Recalls The Struggles That Made Her What She Is

I was the eldest child of my parents. My father was the state coach for football and also a famous footballer. In a news report, The Times Of India called him Soccer Prince of J&K. My initial upbringing was very different. I used to play football, and cricket with the boys.

Nilofar (in yellow T-shirt) with her mother, brother and sister

Nilofar (in a yellow T-shirt) with her mother, brother, and sister

Abruptly, 1989 changed everything. Terrorism started. I could only look out from the window of my house as I saw the boys playing sometimes. I started cursing myself – Why am I a girl? Why can’t I go out and play? Then I started thinking – there would be many girls like me who would want to come out and play. But they can’t, because they don’t have the power. The idea of empowerment started germinating in me. My father wanted me to be a doctor. So I took up medicine and did B.Sc. I was not interested in M.Sc. or Ph.D. My fondness for debates all through school, college, and university shaped my career. A family friend who was a bureaucrat told my father, “She is good at debates. She should do Law.”

Why I Love Being A Lawyer

Nilofar elected unopposed as Vice President of Bar Association, Baramulla

Nilofar elected unopposed as Vice President of Bar Association, Baramulla

I got selected for MBA and LLB at Kashmir University. I chose to study law. I thought that if I am a lawyer, I won’t have to work for anyone. I can have my independent practice.

I passed law in the first division and joined the District Courts at Baramulla. It was 2001. I found an instant liking to my profession. The debates, the logical thinking, the effort to secure justice for the innocent, the ability to help the poor and needy by offering legal aid – all these greatly appealed to me.

Before me, a woman lawyer had joined the District Courts here 18 years ago. The legal luminaries were surprised to see a young girl joining the practice. Many were truly encouraging and supportive. Many others started advising me to quit the profession. “This profession is not for women. The only profession suitable for women is teaching,” they told me over and over again. I was discovering every day that this profession is meant for me. It has been 21 years of legal practice, and I feel the same. The love the independence, the decision-making power. I don’t have to wait for appointments. At work, I am not a subordinate to anyone. There is no boss at work who can tell me to do this or that. All these were my objectives for life. I have the cushion to do what I want for the poor. I can do social work. I can help the poor seek legal justice. I can address women’s issues, and make society better. Every case offers me a new window into society.

Nilofar with sportsmen

Nilofar with sportsmen

The first day – when I was told that this profession is not for women –I decided that I would change this mindset. Now many girls are joining the courts. Girls meet me and say, “Tell us what to do. We want to be like you.” But most girls quit their profession after marriage. They don’t stay focused. In order to succeed anywhere, one has to remain focused. My father Ghulam Mohd Kouchay empowered me. He taught me to stand tall and succeed. I am thankful to the Almighty that my husband Mushtaq Ahmad Wani continues to empower me.

 

How Some Senior Lawyers Tried To Intimidate Me

During the early years of my legal practice, I faced many struggles. In court during arguments, some senior lawyers would try to distract me. During some quiet times during the arguments, they would come and ask me questions like Chai banana aati hai aap ko? Anda banana aata hai? Jhaadu lagana aata hai?

I know what they were trying to do. They were trying to tell me that was my place. At times when I used to win a case, they used to do loose talk like – Oh she has won because she is a woman. Slowly, as I established who I am, the loose talk stopped. One has to earn respect with one’s work and commitment. Many male lawyers and Judges were also encouraging. They motivated me to keep doing good work.

My Many Roles

Whichever field I take up, I like to excel. I was Secretary of Bar Association Baramulla for eight years. Currently, I am Vice President of the Bar Association Baramulla. I am President of the Taekwondo Association Baramulla, and Joint Secretary of JKTA. I am a Member of the District Committee constituted under the Sexual Harassment Act. I was the legal advisor of many departments, Northern Railways Kashmir, and many banks. I had the honor to work as the first female District Attorney for Baramulla for one year. I have a Trust named Lifeline, through which I help the poor and needy. After the shutdown following the abrogation and then during Covid, I gave hundreds of food packets and essential items to the poor. Rice, atta, dal, spices, soaps, juices, biscuits, toffees, sanitary napkins, and many other essential items – I distributed these to hundreds of poor families. I keep helping the poor to build their houses. The purpose of money is to help the poor. What will one gain by storing it? I felt very happy that my father saw me as a successful woman. He used to say to me, “You have rightfully chosen your profession. I really feel proud of you, though I wanted you to be a doctor.” I used to laugh and tell him, “Daddy ji, Doctors seek appointments sometimes for taking my legal advice for cases. Then he also used to laugh.”

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