Interview: The mermaid of Charna Island
With the looks of the girl-next-door, 25-year-old Rosheen Khan is the first woman scuba diving instructor in Pakistan. A bachelor of arts from the University of Karachi, Khan has also worked as dive-master at the Emirates Palace Hotel Blue Dolphin Diving Centre in Abu Dhabi.
Talking to Images on Sunday, Khan discusses her struggle in order to realise her dreams.
How and where did you get your education?
I was born in the backwaters of rural Sindh. In my poor, farming family girls were confined to the four walls of their home. I was the first one to get a bachelor’s degree and a job.
I was nine years old when my family moved from a village in Nawabshah district to Karachi where my father found a job. He did not want me to study after I passed my matric since he felt this was enough education for a girl. I had to struggle to stretch it to the graduation level. I knew that once I did my BA, I would be able get a job and help my family but they did not allow me. I felt so incomplete and unfulfilled I thought that all my hard work at college and the sleepless nights preparing for exams would go in vain. Eventually, I managed to find a job that became an expression of my existence.
What sort of a job did you want?
I was not sure at that time. I bought the newspaper every Sunday, searched through employment columns, and sent out applications to the jobs that interested me. I was a fresh graduate with no prior work experience. One day, Yousuf Ali, a master trainer in scuba diving who owned and ran Karachi Scuba Diving Centre (KSDC) contacted me. After a meeting with him I found myself working as an office assistant at the KSDC which was Pakistan’s only scuba diving centre although I had no idea what scuba diving meant.
It must have been an unusual job. What did you have to do there?
I received phone calls and met people who were interested in sea diving. I would watch them put on rubber suits and equipment. Some would be trained in a swimming pool first and finally, everyone would go for sea diving. I was fascinated by the thought of diving deep down and exploring the bottom of the sea. Soon, I too, became part of it.
Ali was so impressed by my enthusiasm that he decided to take me under his wings and taught me scuba diving. He put me through a rigorous training routine. The more I trained the more excited and determined I became. Working with my teacher and mentor, I became a scuba diving expert. I went through the training of Master Scuba Diving at the renowned Professional Association of Diving Instructors (Padi) training centre in Bangkok.
Yousuf Ali and his wife Bina have adopted me. I live with my foster parents and focus on training scuba diving enthusiasts. They are mostly locals, but some of them are foreigners too.
What is the best part of the career in scuba diving?
Our team has worked on scientific projects on the beaches and under the sea. We have carried out a research project on changes in biodiversity of the rocky coast of Buleji Cove and the turtle nesting grounds at Hawkesbay in February 2006. We also compiled scientific data on breeding habits of the green turtle, an endangered species, along the coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan. We have also produced two documentaries: The fragile habitat of green turtle and Life beneath the sea.
What are your specific credentials now?
I am a qualified instructor with accreditation from Padi. I have undergone training in multilevel diving emergency first response with expert understanding of the procedures and equipment involved in such operations. I have produced documentaries and still images of the reefs and underwater life. I have shared the magnificence of our reefs with the outside world, and created awareness about pollution and the risks faced by inhabitants of the Arabian Sea.
Rosheen Khan is enthusiastic about passing on her knowledge and skills to young men and women. She says scuba diving is absolutely safe and thoroughly enjoyable.