Kashmiri Girl Who ‘Wanted to be Pilot’ Bags Goenka Award

Srinagar: One among the three Kashmiri journalists who swept prestigious Ramnath GoenkaAward on Wednesday in a ceremony held in New Delhi was a Srinagar girl who always wanted to become a commercial pilot but ended up journalist to “tell the stories of ordinary people”.

Shortly after receiving the award, Ashwaq Masoodi — a news reporter with Mint —termed it recognition of her “hard work and perseverance”.

“I am happy that I received the award,” Ashwaq told.

The scribe received the award for two stories she did for Mint—“Breaking the caste barrier” and “Wrestling to succeed”. The awarded stories (Ramnath Goenka award for Uncovering Invisible India) are part of a series she did on aspirations of the young in India in 2015. The two awarded stories were socio-economic profiles of people who want to be something breaking the barriers of caste, religion and patriarchy.

An alumna of Srinagar-based Missionary School, Mallinson — Ashwaq said she wants to write the stories of ordinary people. “And I try to tell these stories with a sensitivity that accords my characters respect and dignity that they deserve,” she said.

But the self-confessed poetry aficionado wanted to be a commercial pilot before she found her interest in writing during her school days. “As I completed my 12th, I attended a writing workshop organized by my mentor and senior journalist Muzamil Jaleel,” she said. “This was when I started looking at writing very differently, as something that could probably, become my career one day.”

She went on to complete her bachelor’s in Mass Communication and Multimedia Production from Degree College Baramulla and later joined Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

“I worked with Press Trust of India as a desk person-cum-reporter for 2.5 years, followed by five months as a legal correspondent with The Asian Age,” she said. “The time I was in PTI honed my editing skills but I wanted to write beyond the normal everyday news reporting.  There was a sense of directionless for a while till I knew I could realize my dream of becoming a writer through long-form journalism.”

In 2012, she went to the Columbia Journalism School on a Fulbright Masters Nehru fellowship, for a degree in magazine writing. During that one year in the US, she wrote for The Atlantic, literary magazine Guernica, and the New York Timesblog.

Mint hired her from Columbia. She writes ‘long-form’ stories for the publication – mostly on gender and marginalized communities.

Last year, Ashwaq received The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) award for excellence in reporting on women’s issues.

“The award was for my series on human trafficking, looking at the social, economic, legal, and human aspects of the problem,” she said. (KL)