Srinagar, Jan 10: The dream project of a Kashmiri doctor couple, Khurshid Ahmad Guru and Lubna Guru, to set up a Kashmiri museum abroad that was envisioned in 2020 has finally become a reality.
In the backdrop of the picturesque yet roaring Niagara Falls, world's first overseas museum of Kashmiri culture and arts has been set up by the couple.
Khurshid Guru told reporters that over 12 million people visit the Niagara Falls each year and even if a small percentage of them visit the museum, his dream will bear fruit.
To assert its origin, Khurshid has named the museum as 'Centre for Kashmir'. It includes a number of Kashmiri artefacts depicting the culture, history and art of the region.
The passion of the Kashmiri doctor bears its origin in the brutal assassination of his father, renowned cardiologist Abdul Ahad Guru, who was killed on April 1, 1993 in Srinagar.
Khurshid is a senior robotic oncologic surgeon and heads the urology department of Roswell Park comprehensive cancer centre at Buffalo in the US. He has been working in Buffalo along with his paediatrician wife, Lubna, for the last 17 years.
The couple has assembled 1,500 rare books on Kashmir besides artefacts, which is said to be the biggest collection on Kashmir outside the Valley.
In 2020, the centre purchased the former First Church of Christ Scientist on Park Place. It has its own history. The church had been built in 1917 in the Gothic Revival style by the First Society of Christian Scientists of Niagara Falls that existed since July 26, 1903.
Post-purchase, the interior remodelling started. False ceilings were taken down, the roof was renovated, and windows were resealed, and an elevator was installed. They are also planning to buy two additional houses to provide residential space to visiting Kashmiri artistes, scholars and contributors.
The museum is now ready to be thrown open. The items planned to be displayed include paintings, out of print books, and Kashmiri handicrafts, including shawls, rugs, wood carving, papier machie and other items.
Since costs have shot up post Covid-19, the couple is raising funds from patrons of Kashmiri culture and art and also those interested in synthesis of global culture that consists of different remote yet deeply interconnected cultures of different races and regions.
The centre acquired the property for $200,000 from its owner, Michael Suszek; spent $1.25 million for construction and rennovation, another $250,000 for furniture and equipment, and $300,000 for other costs.
Post the pandemic, the costs escalated. This was despite the fact that the New York authorities approved a tax concession to the 9,400 sq ft building in September 2021. The centre is a public charity that aims to serve as the global focal point on arts, culture and history of the South Asian Himalayan region. To preserve, protect and promote the 'Kashmiri way of life' is central to its existence.
The centre hopes that it can run on its own as a business operation, with ticket sales and annual memberships covering the operation costs.