In Kulgam’s crowded main market, a cosmetic store runs from a complex’s ground floor: Zara Cosmetics. It is just another cosmetics store in the town. The only difference is that it is being run by a Kazakh.

Kareena, 33, sits on her chair behind the counter and greets her customers with a smile and warm wishes. Dressed in Pheran with a scarf wrapped around her head, she looks like any other Kashmiri girl, but as she starts to converse, her accent offers the glimpse of a lingual distinction.

Born and brought up in a Muslim family in Kazakhstan, Kareena is married to a Kashmiri, hailing from Devsar village. She did her early schooling from a local school in her vicinity. Then, she studied Economics at a technology university and business in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan.

It was during her higher studies that she met her soul mate, Dr Sajad Sikander, who was pursuing his MBBS in the same city. Kareena and Sartaj’s paths first crossed at a mutual friend’s birthday bash. Both had to travel through the same street and used to meet frequently. The couple fell in love and finally decided to marry.