Next time your tooth aches it should take you a second to find a dentist, says the girl who has developed Kashmir’s first Android app

In 1989, when Kashmir’s endless armed strife was just taking root, Mehvish Mushtaq was born to forest officer Mushtaq Ahmad Hakak and housewife Farhat at Khanquah-e-Mou’la, a dense and dingy neighbourhood in downtown Srinagar. “The first encounter I remember occurred at Bohrikadal. One boy died,” recalls Farhat. The coming days proved eventful, shattering the valley’s decades of calm: National Conference activist Yusuf Halwai was gunned down to the left of her house and Jan Singh leader Tika Lal Taploo to the right; Rubaiya Sayeed’s kidnapping transformed the old city into a ‘liberated zone’.

Mehvish’s parents shifted uptown, to the apparently more peaceful Barzullah, to bring up their two children. But soon the entire valley was converted into a battlefield. Brought up in the shadow of guns, Mehvish, who turns 24 today and who has a degree in Computer Science, has developed Kashmir’s first Android app. Launched on February 28 on the Google App Store, ‘Dial Kashmir’ is a one-stop source of information on essential services in the valley, including police and public offices.

“The month-long online course was part of my degree. It took me two subsequent weeks to develop the software,” she says. Thrilled by the encouraging response —newspaper and television stories coupled with 12,000 downloads until last week as she claims — Mehvish floated Version 2 on May 22. It’s a treasure trove of information on automobile services, hotels, doctors, houseboats, NGOs, real estate, postal codes, and even Waazwaan, Kashmir’s party cuisine, with over a dozen mutton preparations. “Next time your tooth aches, it should take you a second to find a dentist,” she says.

Planning a more comprehensive database, Mehvish has now fine-tuned her ambition towards creating an extensive Yellow Pages format that has every possible service, utility, public and private office with the latest addresses, phone numbers and email IDs. She hopes to realise her dream in a year. “It’ll have everything from consultancies, pharmacies and jewellery stores to beauty parlours and event managers.” Mehvish counts data collection as her biggest challenge, as nobody has, for example, drawn a list of the valley’s gourmet chefs.

And what about the political turmoil? “That indeed is the biggest challenge but the brunt was faced more by my parents than me. Things were better by the time I joined college,” she says. She sounds prepared for both bouquets and brickbats. ‘Useless app’, posts Sarah Hayat while Shakir Rashid says: ‘Hats off to the developer.’

“I have little passion for a private or government job. I just want to develop into a freelance software engineer,” she says about her future.