Multi-tasker par excellence promoting art, urban planning

Nishat-based engineer Iajaz Naqshbandi is upbeat about his love for art. While he is enthusiastic about "Aesthetics Art Gallery", which he co-founded along with wife Dr Samia in the Srinagar city centre recently, Iajaz says his understanding of the nuances of telecommunications and urban planning can benefit many young professionals in Kashmir.
Multi-tasker par excellence promoting art, urban planning
GK Photo

For 63-year-old engineer, telecom expert and urban planner Iajaz Naqshbandi, homecoming to Kashmir in 2018, after 34-years of an illustrious career in sectors such as telecom among other fields in Saudi Arabia, was a challenge.

Iajaz had a lot on mind. Although plans in the pipeline with regard to how he could pitch-in for smart city and urban planning did not take-off at one go, now this art enthusiast is finding his feet gradually.

Sitting in his workspace area, based in the outhouse of his Nishat residence, Iajaz welcomes guests with a spring in his stride.

Ask Iajaz about his newly started art gallery “Aesthetics”, located in the Regal Building in Srinagar’s city centre, the man who discovered his artistic self during the recent COVID pandemic weaves an interesting story. Iajaz is an artist, an urban planner and a Kashmiri who bats for local empowerment. He fondly remembers his stint, especially in the telecom sector in Saudi Arabia but is equally keen to do his bit for Kashmir now.

“It is time to pay back to society. It could be in the form of creating avenues for young engineers or simply showcasing our rich art and cultural heritage to the children of Kashmir. People like me who have vastly travelled and worked in the multi-nationals have to ensure that young professionals get benefitted from us,” says Naqshbandi.

As an individual, Iajaz is extremely talented. One can gauge levels of his creativity by the fact that apart from being at the forefront of an attractive art gallery, he dabbles from something as engaging as consulting work to a totally de-stressing hobby of beekeeping.

“I run a consultancy firm and we are consultants to SIDCO and Royal Springs Golf Course ( RSGC). I was roped in by the Government of India in 1999 as a telecom consultant. I came to India from Saudi for two years but soon realised that my calling was right there overseas,” says Naqshbandi.

He also talks about his love for the development of smart city and working towards a cleaner and better environment. “I am also associated with NALCO and we recently started an initiative to clean Dal Lake. Although the beginning was quite humble, as more and more people joined us, the drive became bigger and better,” says Naqshbandi.

Alumni of then Regional Engineering College (REC) Srinagar and later having studied regional and urban planning from Delhi, Iajaz says it was during a visit to Dubai in 2018, for meeting his daughter, that he rediscovered his artistic self.

“As a school going child I used to draw and paint but I gave up art work due to paucity of time. However, it was almost 4 years back in Dubai that my daughter insisted that I should start painting. But the real push to my artistic work came recently during the COVID pandemic when I diligently began painting,” says Naqshabandi.

While Iajaz recollects the way successful young Kashmiri engineers and other professionals working abroad bring joy to him, he is keen that hands-on training and up-skilling of engineers in Kashmir is a must-do.

“I have even shared this with senior officials in the administration. We need to boost capabilities. Look at Dubai, the way it has developed and now the place is exploring something as novel as laying of cables through sewerage lines. If we talk about developing Srinagar as a smart city, it is time to think out of the box,” says Naqshbandi.

Such is Iajaz’s zest for various sectors vis-à-vis art and culture that he is easily able to shift gears and switch conversations around topics of interest. He says Aesthetics Art Gallery, which was inaugurated on March 10, is now a registered entity with the government. “This gallery is a long-term initiative and a feature which will be there for good now. Right now 25- 30 artworks being showcased in the gallery are all my paintings based on the theme of nature and Kashmir. However, in the days to come, we expect to work for the revival of our rich traditional Kashmiri architecture and wood work,” says Naqshbandi.

He says art works with respect to shrines and other places of importance in Kashmir will also be a value addition to the gallery soon and shall create awareness among youngsters.

“A young and budding photographer Ryan has a great inventory of photographs featuring birds of Kashmir. We will be soon inviting school children to the gallery. We have a rich flora and fauna with bird watchers and nature lovers visiting us from all over the world. It is time we create awareness about birds, wildlife among our young ones,” says Naqshbandi.

He is also quite keen on making a documentary with a narration in Kashmiri language creating awareness about different varieties of birds and wetlands.

“We also want to hold on the spot competitions for students in art at the gallery and present art demos to them. Apart from art we also want to provide a platform to calligraphy and paper quilling,” says Naqshbandi. He signs off saying that in all the disciplines and areas of his work, the central theme and aspiration is to do his bit for Kashmir.

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