You can take the girl out of Pakistan but you can never take Pakistan out of the girl. Digital and e-commerce expert Eemaan Siddiqi has been living in New York for close to two decades now but her heart and soul remain rooted in Pakistan. Her commitment to her homeland has led to her appointment as a Global Ambassador for Emerging Pakistan, an initiative by the Government of Pakistan to showcase the best of the country internally and internationally. Here, she looks back at her time as a journalist in Pakistan, a career that allowed her to witness the rise of some of the country’s leading names in the world of arts and entertainment, names who dared to dream different and achieve the unexpected.
1999 is when I moved to the US. Not quite, but almost 2 decades ago. I miss Pakistan every single day and see a glimpse of my country wherever I travel to – be it in the streets of Venice that remind me of Lahore, the Swiss Alps where I see a bit of Swat, or Mexico where the touristy markets take me back to Zainab Market in Karachi.
Pakistan has taught me the power of resilience, a ‘figure it out and move on’ attitude, an ability to improvise and think outside the box. I have always been an unofficial ambassador for my country in both my personal and professional life, and it was a proud moment for me to be appointed a Global Ambassador for Emerging Pakistan. In my current position, I intend to promote a softer image of Pakistan through the robust business opportunities, international fashion scene, the amazing music and movie scene, and the rich and delicious food.
As I ponder on my responsibilities, I think back to Pakistan, reflecting on what was and what is or rather who was and who is now in the country.
Asim Raza, a dear friend, was starting out his career and I (an MBA student and a freelance writer on occasion) interviewed him for the Star evening newspaper: not sure if the Star still exists but it was a cool ‘eveninger’ of its time and probably the only one that was read and respected in Karachi in the 80’s and 90’s. I sat in Asim’s living room, where on occasion, a bunch of friends would get together to hang and listen to old songs and have a cup of tea and sometimes yummy chaat. This time however, our meeting was for a purpose and we chatted informally about his dreams and aspirations, what he wanted to become and where he was coming from. Asim Raza, an architect by profession, was making advertisements and wanted to make movies. Creative; for sure. Far-fetched: totally.
Let’s move on to the world of fashion. Amir Adnan, another dear friend, had taken up the tie business by storm. An MBA Finance major who had left a budding corporate career to make neck ties. Very strange and not at all conventional. Who does that?! And especially when one has a family to support? A quirky, and an unsafe path, one that had not been tried, tested, or trodden upon. Neck ties: a product that had a very small target market, if at all, in Pakistan. All this was some two decades ago. Even today, the kind of career change where one moves from a great corporate career to sew neck ties is considered an anomaly and this kind of behaviour, rather eccentric.
The voice that today makes a thousand (actually millions) hearts miss a beat is our very own boy next door. A boy who was struggling to keep up with computer engineering studies to meet societal pressures, was also ever so secretly following his passion to sing and compose music. I’m speaking here of none other than Atif Aslam. It hasn’t been quite 20 years for our lad Atif yet but it has been over a decade of immense hard work. I interviewed him in Lahore about 12 years ago, when visiting Pakistan and he was the classic example of a young singer wanting to make it big, all the time believing that he could without displaying arrogance or overconfidence. There was sincerity in his words and eyes. Prior to the interview, the night before we had hung out at a friend’s house where Atif had sat on a kitchen stool, strummed his guitar ever so magically and sang melodious songs for a group of maybe 8 people. What I would do for that experience again! Super grateful that I was a part of our legendary Atif’s fabulous journey.
To summarize, Asim Raza is a leader in Pakistan’s prolific movie industry today. Advertisements, movie videos and the movie “Ho Mann Jahan” directed by Asim are pieces of art where each image/shot can very well be a much sought after painting. He is the man behind the brilliant marketing for brands like Coca Cola, Sprite, Lux, Pantene and many more.
Amir Adnan today has his own fashion empire and is the largest enterprise of designer clothing in Pakistan, comprising 24 retail stores across the country and creating a retail and manufacturing structure that can rival an international competitor. Amir Adnan’s sherwanis are coveted internationally, and many a star have adorned these garbs proudly.
Atif Aslam – a young legend in his own right has managed to carve his place in the hearts of people globally. Every concert of his is sold out. Maybe some of this has to do with his good looks and flirtatious adaayein but to be fair we must credit most of his fame to his immense talent and crazy hard work. Atif makes it a point to thank his fans from time to time on social media. His actions portray to us his grounded values and the fact that his humble yet confident nature. He is a great role model for the youth of our country.
When we talk of Asim Amir and Atif Aslam today, we talk about them with awe and admiration for who they are, what they stand for and almost envy their lives, their success and their fame. What they have in common is invaluable – their middle-class backgrounds giving rise to their deep rooted and well-grounded values, respect towards people, humility, an admirable work ethic, a passion to excel and never but never bowing down to the norms of the society.