Kashmiri youth struggles to fund trip to represent India in International Snow Sculpture Championships

By Raqib Hameed Naik, TwoCircles.net

Srinagar: Away from news headlines, Zahoor Din Lone, 29 from village Singhpora, Pattan in District Baramulla of Kashmir has silently created history by getting his team of four youths selected for 27th International Snow Sculpture Championships, representing India for the very first time in any international snow-sculpting event.

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From L to R Sunil Kushwaha - Mridul Kumar Upadhyay - Zahoor Din lone - Ravi Prakash
From L to R Sunil Kushwaha – Mridul Kumar Upadhyay – Zahoor Din lone – Ravi Prakash

The team is one among the selected 16 teams across the world after more than 400 applications were screened by International Snow Sculpture Organizing Committee.

Along with the leader of team Lone, Sunil Kushwaha, Ravi Prakash, Mridul Kumar Upadhyay are also members of a four-member team scheduled to take part in International Snow Sculpture Championship to be held in Breckenridge, Colorado, United States in January 2017.

In a conversation with Twocircles.net, Lone says his interest is snow structures go back to his childhood. “In Kashmir, it is common to see kids from every house create snow structures during winters. I was also attracted to snow sculpting the same way,” says Lone.

Zubair did his graduation in fine arts from Kashmir University and Masters from Jamia Millia Islamia. In 2014, he along with his two friends Hilal Ahmed Khan and Mubashir Niyaz, both from the Kashmir valley and his college friends conceived an idea to form a group “Callisto Art & Culture” completely dedicated to snow sculpting.

In the same year Lone participated in ‘Snow Fiesta-2014’, a snow sculpting event organised by Eplanner event management in collaboration with J&K Tourism in picturesque Gulmarg which lead to wide-spread recognition of his work, appreciated by the all quarters of the valley and outside.

“I wouldn’t have been able to participate in that event if one of my well-wishers, a local journalist Irfan Qureshi and J&K tourism won’t have helped me in purchasing the tool kit required for sculpting. That event boosted my confidence and I decided to take it as my career,” Lone told Twocircles.net


Earlier this year, when Lone had to apply for the 27th International Snow Sculpture Championships, he decided to take his two friends, with whom he had formed the art group in 2014, as a team.

“Unfortunately the unrest and subsequent snapping of mobile phone network in valley doomed possibilities of me getting in touch with them which lead me to drop them and take my three batch mates with whom I had studied in Jamia Millia Islamia,” Lone said.

The championships, which begin on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, will include sculpting for 65 hours in 8 days on a snow block given to the 16 selected teams.

But despite the good news, Lone is extremely worried, as he has no money to finance the trip and his training. All his letters to sports ministry, corporate and other organizations have yielded no results as yet.

As per the championship rules, every team has to finance its own airfare and visa fees. The team is also without the proper snow sculpting gear as the cost to buy the same for four team members runs into lakhs.

“We had also planned to hold two training sessions: one in Ladakh and the other in Gulmarg, to prepare for the event but that too remains on halt as there are no funds to finance the same,” says Lone.

Mridul Upadhyay, one among the four team members, said, “We have submitted a proposal to Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India and many other ministries, government offices, art galleries, our Alma Mater, MNCs and philanthropists etc but haven’t got any support so far. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports said that it has no scheme to support us.”

Lone says that they will need at least Rs 10 lakh to fund their tournament which will include airfare and purchase of snow sculpting tools, clothes and practice sessions.

“The last day to confirm the complete and confirm the travel and flight information to International Snow Sculpture Organizing Committee is December 5. If we fail to do so, our team will be replaced by another team,” says a worried Lone.

Given that the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has denied their demands, the chances of participation seem bleak. This not only denies a wonderful opportunity to these talented youth, it also denies India a chance to win a medal in an international event.