The Pond’s Miracle Women’s journey continues this week with Samina Ibrahim, a journalist, marketer and a fashion editor. Samina worked at Newsline since its inception as Senior Assistant Editor but quit after a medical condition left her paralyzed from the waist down. Samina worked tirelessly to get where she is today. During her highest point in her journalism career, Samina found a new interest in jewelry and started her own business in jewelry design called Mandarin. She is a woman of many calibers and her multitasking abilities are something to admire. Samina chooses women that have themselves gone through struggle in life and have conquered fears and anxiety to rise above all to become exceptionally successful in their field. She celebrates 5 entrepreneurs, 2 educators, a therapist cum humanitarian, a well-known photographer and the owner behind one of Karachi’s famous restaurant,The Patio.
She is an entrepreneur
She is a mother
She is honest
Soft spoken and not one to give up, Aminah Sultan is currently the owner of 2 labels, ‘Kinky Lingerie’ and ‘Aminah Sultan Couture’ in Karachi. In addition to running 2 businesses, she is also a mother of a set of triplets but despite having her plate full to the brim, she has the exceptional talent of managing it all with an impeccable attitude.
Aminah recalls how it was the complete opposite of easy when she started her lingerie label. When running such a business one has to keep the cultural limitations of the Pakistani society in mind. “My first struggle was to have lingerie recognized as an integral part of the fashion industry. I had to explain the meaning of bridal lingerie wherever I went when I was starting off and there were many times when I thought of just giving it all up. My passion to make this a success however, kept me going.” She also comments on the struggles she had with advertising her product. “My adverts couldn’t be blatant given the cultural sensitivities of this country. I could not get any models who were ready to wear my product and pose for pictures. Magazines were not ready to print such pictures. I would lose my determination momentarily and it was frustrating sometimes. But then I decided to just have fashion shows at my own place and invite everyone I knew to advertise and show the products I have created with love and sincerity,” she explains.
Since the very ambitious Aminah became a mother 7-8 years after launching her brand, she did not find managing work with motherhood exceptionally difficult. She believes the smoothness of her journey was made possible by the supportive family she has. “My husband and in-laws were by my side at every difficult turn and I want to thank them for that,” she says. Without their support she thinks it is hard for women to manage a career with home, which affects her children. She also attributes her success to the women in her life. “I have two moms and I have been raised by both of them. One is solely responsible for my sense of style and fashion and the other one completely kept me grounded my entire life. They have contributed to different aspects of my personality and have shaped the person I am today. I love them for whatever they have done for me,” says Aminah gratefully.
Aminah also believes that for women to remain to be the strongest pillars in the family, they ought to take care of themselves. ““We are the backbones of our families”. When the going gets tough, we need all the reserves to fall back on, so we must build on them! Every day is a new struggle so taking some time off once in a while helps me get back on the track.” How does Aminah ensure that? She loves going to salons, getting her hair done, and going to the gym to maintain her health. Sometimes, she does feel weak, but her faith keeps her going.
Describing herself as honest, Aminah does not waver or cut corners once she has made a commitment. Staying focussed will make you win the game according to her. “Don’t worry about not being in the limelight. Your good work will speak for itself.” She’s made mistakes in the past, but those mistakes were actually blessings in disguise that helped her evolve into a person. Identifying her Miracle Moment to be the birth of her triplets, Aminah Sultan inspires women to pour their heart and soul into whatever they do to achieve miracles of their own. It is indeed their sheer hard work and passion that will allow them to paint a beautiful picture for themselves on the canvas of life.
She is a humanitarian
She is a therapist
She is loving
“True humanitarianism is when you work for all living beings be it animal or person.” Establishing a foundation for animals alongside being a qualified therapist, Ayesha Chundrigar is the epitome of humanitarianism. She was five when she started teaching the children of drivers and maids in her street. Her journey continued with teaching at schools in slums, visiting orphans and handling refugee camps. She attained qualifications in journalism and humanistic psychotherapy. Now at 28, she is the proud founder of Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation Animal Rescue where she rescues and rehabilitates around 200 various types of animals including cats, dogs and donkeys. Alongside her social work, she practices therapy, as well as provides free sessions for acid burn survivors, orphans and women in abusive relationships.
Obviously there have been ups and downs along the way. When Ayesha first initiated the foundation, she found little support as no one wanted to work with injured or stray animals. “It’s very difficult to keep trudging forward when you take one step forward and someone makes you take two steps back,” she explains. However, Ayesha’s mother has been her backbone, giving her endless support and freedom every step of the way, and for that Ayesha is truly grateful. “When I was 5 years old I would bring home random animals. She’d come home, see 10 chickens, and ask me what is this now? I was young and I would play with them and let them be so she would have to run after them. I had goats, cats, turtles and fish. Name it and I had it. I was always into humanitarian work. I would bring the children of drivers and maids from the entire neighbourhood to my house after school and try to teach them. I always thought it was very unfair that I got to learn and they didn’t. My mom would always make us snacks. She was very supportive like that.” She, along with her mom, would make Eid a big affair. They would celebrate Eid with orphans with mehndi and bangles.
Ayesha’s miracle moment was last year at her shelter’s opening. Her paralysed dogs ran around in wheelchairs, 3 legged dogs hopped around and everyone played with the animals. There was a lot of love and compassion in the air. According to Ayesha, “It was kind of like God had taken the mental image that I had made in my head when I was 5 years old and He had literally placed it in reality in front of me.” This shelter is now her ‘happy place’, where she can play with the animals and enjoy her work.
Being a therapist, hearing stories of orphans and abused women was emotionally challenging for Ayesha. “Every story made me want to cry.” She encountered a woman whose husband had thrown 4 bottles of acid on her. The woman felt like a candle with her skin melting off. These stories are hard to listen to, but even harder for the victims to tell. However, positive changes can be made in each person, by being empathetic and just talking to them. Ayesha claims everyone wants someone to listen to them. Everyone should allow themselves to show vulnerability. How does Ayesha deal with her vulnerabilities? “What I do is I pick myself up and I dust myself off and I carry on with life.”
Ayesha advices women to be self-aware, have principles, and be the reference point by which they view the world and set boundaries. Know who you are because only then can you be emotionally or financially independent. So far Ayesha is unstoppable. She is the beacon of hope for those who cannot speak, and an inspiration for those who can.
She is an educator
She is a mother
She is a realist
“I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t teach special needs children anymore and I was completely at the end of my emotional tether. It was like accepting a form of failure. But there’s always some opportunity in crisis,” believes Hilla Javeri. She grew up helping her mother with her sister, who was a special needs child and understood the requirements and feelings of such children. This is where her passion for teaching special children took roots and the very sensitive Hilla decided to help them via the field of education. However, after having taught special needs children for 10 years, she felt burnt out emotionally and decided to find new focus. That focus lay in setting up one of the most prestigious and trusted preschools in Karachi known as Hilla’s Montessori.
Sometimes, what you set out to do may not be meant for you and realizing this, she wanted to turn a new leaf. “It had always been my dream to teach special needs so to accept the fact that I was not able to give my best was not easy for me,” says Hilla. Tapping her training as a Montessori teacher, she put the two together and started working on a headstart program for little children. “30 years ago, it was a very new concept and nobody even dreamt of sending their child to pre-school at the age of 1.5. I was very fortunate I had a friend who was willing to bring her 1.5 year old to me and that’s when it all began. It was bizarre at that time but I wanted to give it a shot,” says Hilla.
Though Hilla quit teaching special needs children, the field remains very close to her heart. While teaching special needs, she came across parents whose attitude really upset her. They would hide the medical facts of their child, they would ask her to keep their child’s condition a secret and sometimes they would find it hard to accept the realities of their child. To make the society accept special children, it was essential for the parents to cross that bridge first. Hilla, however did understand the fact that the parents would be going through so much internal conflict that it was hard for them to cope with the realities. It was difficult for her to make them realize that “your child is fighting against time. You have to close gaps between chronological and neurological age. You have to capitalize on the initial 0-6 years of age”. Hilla made sure that she told the parents that they should be proud of their children. Every day a child was achieving something new, something that meant a big deal for them to be able to do. “I took my sister everywhere I went. It helped her gel into the society and interact. And with this, my family was able to send across the message to the world that we in no way are ashamed of her,” explains Hilla.
Putting yourself first sometimes is not just the right thing to do but also the need of all women. Hilla feels it’s important because a woman is the pivot of her family. If she’s not happy, she won’t create a happy environment. “Understand who you are as a woman, some part of your daily life has to be about you. If it isn’t, then a lot of frustration and resentment builds up because your days have gone by doing things for other people,” she suggests. “My work is my own personal identity, has nothing to do with my family. It’s something I’ve created for myself. I would urge all women to do something like that, where they can strike a balance between motherhood and professional life as well. I think it’s possible”.
Hilla was fortunate in the sense that she operated from her own home. It was very easy for her to strike the perfect balance. To her, maintaining financial independence is extremely important. As it means you’re emotionally more secure and the kind of decisions you make are independent of financial concerns. Therefore, those decisions are practical and intelligent. She attributes a lot of what she is today to her mother. “She taught me to get on with the job. There’s no point just wallowing in self-pity or dwelling on the past”. Other than by being positive, Hilla exercises regularly to keep her stress levels checked.
While Hilla Javeri knows how to cater to the needs of those around her, she is also self aware. Had she not been in touch with herself, she wouldn’t have been able to redirect her passion for teaching. She claims to have many Miracle Moments, not just one. Teaching those with special needs and witnessing them say their first word after 6-8 months is what used to give her utmost happiness and contentment. In this present program, when children get placed at a school of their parents’ choice, Hilla feels immensely proud. She did not get to attend college, so attending her own children’s graduation was a significant moments for her too. While Hilla finds her pride in her students and her children, they find their comfort in her. The difference she makes to the lives those who need her most shows clearly why she is a Ponds Miracle Woman.
She is a photographer
She is an entrepreneur
She is hardworking
“I do a lot of different things. It’s unfair to peg me down as a photographer or a photojournalist. I teach at Indus Valley, have a small jewelry business and write for various magazines. I have an interest in couple of things with social impact but generally it’s all creative work through various tools.” Back when she was younger, Khaula wasn’t a patient child. She was trying to figure out what she wanted to do and would become impatient when things weren’t working out. “It was part of a process, and perhaps things could have been different,” but Khaula believes whatever happens, happens for the best. This young, light hearted photographer loves her work and goes to great lengths to pursue her passions.
Khaula’s mother was her support system and never enforced her opinions on Khaula. She let her be rather than pushing her to fill some societal standards like getting married before a certain age. Basically, her mother never told her there was something she couldn’t do. “She’s seen the kind of work I found my way in, the niche. It’s not something many women get into in, especially in Pakistan at least.” Now witnessing her daughter’s achievements, we’re sure Khaula’s mother is happy and proud.
Khaula has made the journey but faced turbulence on the way. Since she’s a freelance photographer, her work is based on projects. Pushing and motivating herself is a big challenge. She’s on her own, without any team so all responsibility falls on her. “If I slack off, there is nobody pushing me to do the work. Doing everything for yourself, you can’t switch off easily.” Khaula realizes everything she’s doing, every effort she’s putting in, she’s building herself up, piece by piece. Since she’s a creative individual, she invests most of her time in photography, but she knows it’s good to be diverse. “Stay in touch with youth, impart what you have learnt, the ideas generated, diverse things. That helps in your craft.”
So how does she manage her work with her life? According to Khaula, it depends on project to project. Sometimes she’s unable to strike that balance, especially when she has to travel to different parts of the country working on time consuming and deadline based projects. But when such projects end, she tries to take at least 2-3 days, if not a week, off. Whenever Khaula is in town, she goes for fitness workouts. Obviously, she can’t follow a much regimented plan, but tries her best regardless. She’s a petite girl and has to carry a lot of camera equipment including her lenses and tripod on her shoulders. For that, she needs upper body strength. “I have to make sure I eat well and that I go for stamina building classes. That’s important.”
Khaula believes financial independence is very important, however, “this isn’t at all to say that it’s not necessary to have a companion who supports you. That’s someone to bounce your ideas off.” If you haven’t found someone, it’s essential you have financial security and emotional strength in whatever you’re doing. We could do with encouraging that in our society a lot more. Khaula, it seems, has gained this independence and security from her work. Now, rather than adjusting her schedule according to the needs of her clients, it is her clients who ask for dates and availability and plan projects accordingly. This way she manages to keep some time for herself and for hanging out with her nephews, nieces and sisters.
Khaula grew up in Pakistan and growing up, she didn’t study too hard. She didn’t get the opportunity to go abroad and that’s something she was really looking forward to do. After many years, Khaula applied for the Fulbright Scholarship and much to her surprise, she got it. It was her only chance to explore the world. She knew it was more than just an opportunity to go abroad and get a degree. “I saw this as an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where for 3 years, I could live and immerse myself in different cultures with all expenses paid for.” Unsurprisingly, getting the scholarship was her Miracle Moment. Khaula Jamil teaches us an invaluable lesson; to pursue passion, even if it means doing five different things or breaking a lot of social constructs along the way. Don’t lose hope even when the odds are low – hard work and dedication always pay off.
She is an entrepreneur
She is a single mother
She is relentless
Maroofa, founder of Maroofa A. Hamidi- Furniture and Interiors, is currently enjoying designing furniture, interior, curtains, bed linen and recently, jaa namaz’. She is single handily raising 2 children and in addition to her roles as an entrepreneur and a mother, she teaches Industrial Design at the Visual Department of Karachi University as well. At 43, she believes she is at a crucial point in her life and reveals “it’s a time of great change, which I am trying to embrace and going with the flow.”
“I’m a sole proprietor so I have to take critical decisions regarding money, deadlines and management,” she exclaims. Decisions like hiring somebody new, his or her training somebody, taking on projects she’s not sure of and dealing with clients she’s not comfortable with, it’s all part of the business life. Within a span of 20 years, Maroofa has faced financial problems and her challenges include meeting deadlines, expansion, cutting back, cultivating relations at work as well as with clients. Missing one deadline means losing money and clients. “Weaknesses come, trials and tribulations come. I feel weak every day. With time I’ve learnt that you’re so powerless, that it’s okay to lose, be a failure, and be angry. Just keep on taking the little step forward.”
Maroofa has no regrets and says that if given the chance to do anything differently, she wouldn’t. This course of life was set for her, and she followed it the best she could. She persevered, was consistent and stayed the course, whether the business made money or not. She strives constantly to be on her toes and achieve her true potential.
Having started working right out of college, Maroofa doesn’t find it difficult to be a single mom. Her work has simply adapted to her children as her children have adapted to her work. According to her, “we juggled and balanced, it’s about lifestyle choices you make as you go along”. It’s heart breaking and back wracking, the struggle is real. It’s an up and down process, like she says, “sometimes you make it and sometimes you fail miserably.” Striking a balance is extremely important, since for Maroofa, being a single parent, not working was never an option. Independence, according to this day and age is “not important, it’s actually crucial”.
Maroofa believes her children learn quite a few things just by being around her. Her life serves as an example for them that it isn’t always about the money. If they need things in life they need to go out, work, establish business routes and be consistent with what they’re doing. Every failure, every achievement, every success, has to be shared as a family. When difficult decisions have to made and priorities have to be set, Maroofa asks herself a few questions. “Does this situation require you to be in forefront or your family or friends or other commitments to be in forefront? It’s really not important for a woman to put herself first but its important to gauge circumstances, situations and time requirements. To put everything in foreground and move forward or to stop and let others be your priority”.
Miracle Woman Maroofa loves what she does, and she’s amongst the lucky few who make a living out of what they love. “From conception to execution, when you see raw material, ideas, client’s requirements take shape in front of you, those are the Miracle Moments for me.” Maroofa serves as an inspiration for all single mothers who also have to take the responsibilities that in our culture fall under the jurisdiction of a father. She shows by example that those who are relentless and those who do not succumb to hardships, eventually do witness success at their doorstep.
She is an educator
She is an artist
She is sanguine
She paints the walls of Karachi, she is an educator at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture and she caters from home under the label of Handmade by Nurayah & Shabbo. When it comes to multitasking skills, one must learn them from Nurayah Sheikh, also a mother of two teenagers. “My 9-5 job is at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, where I have been for the last 10 years. I am part of a lot of organisations such as Pursukoon Pakistan which gives artists a creative platform to work for the betterment of the city. Also I run a catering business from home with my mother since about 8 years,” says Nurayah.
Life often poses difficult decisions before us and one such difficult moment for Nurayah was choosing between pursuing her Masters and getting married, where she chose the latter. As life progresses, a woman keeps adding to her plate and manages to juggle all the balls together. “Whenever challenges have come, I have just taken them in stride and balanced everything. I think that’s the beauty of a woman – her ability to multitask,” maintains Nurayah. What she enjoys at Indus Valley is to work with the capabilities of young artists and especially those who have special needs. “I really have to strive to be a good instructor to bring out the best in my students, which can be difficult.” When working on her community projects, there is again a different set of challenges that she faces along with her female students. “We paint on the walls in different areas in Karachi to beautify the city and spread messages of peace. I make it a point to take my female students with me so they know how to cope with different comments that people make and to make them street smart. Men passing by in cars and buses sometimes whistle, sometimes pass unpleasant comments but as women living in Pakistan, we must know how to deal with such remarks and situations,” explains Nurayah.
When it came to motherhood, Nurayah found a way to create the perfect balance for herself. “With my first one, I cut down on my teaching hours because I thought that it was a sacrifice I had to make at that time. The experience was also new and exciting. I improvised when my second child was born by starting my home catering business. I tried to balance not being able to go out of the house by being within the home space and working with that.” However, as her children grew up, she was back in the game and has her plate full to date. “I’m on the go the whole day, I wake up at 6 am and I am out of the house with my kids in the morning. I go teach, I come back, I am working in the kitchen or on a project somewhere.” She feels that financial independence is extremely important for any woman and at times, she needs to be a partner to her spouse rather than someone who is being looked after constantly. Though she spends minimal time on self care and enjoys her work more than anything else, she does take out time for music, movies and her loved ones.
Nurayah Sheikh firmly believes that women are constantly giving bits of themselves to their spouses, parents, siblings and children but that does not make her less, it just increases her value and worth. This is exactly what she projects through her art as well. For her, her Miracle Moment happens every now and then when any one of her students matures to do great things in life. She believes that she is a reflection of her mother who “never stepped out to work but from cutting our hair to stitching our clothes to cooking, she did everything.” That is what Nurayah also aspires to be, a wholesome woman, who, along with her family, takes herself forward as well and maintains her individuality.
She is an entrepreneur
She is successful
She is a rebel
Self aware and unafraid of making difficult decisions, Saher Qadir is a strong and determined young woman. She enrolled in Rhode Island School of Design as an architecture major however, she soon realised it was thwarting her creativity. “I found myself more attracted to designing furniture. There was something amazing about the creativity of that department and about the materials you can use to make things that were mind boggling. I wanted to get my hands dirty,” se explains. She ended up switching her major, which led her to starting her own furniture and interiors label, Esque, after graduating. “I make people’s dreams come true in terms of the interiors of their homes and so far it has been a very exciting ride.”
Yielding to her inspirations and making fabulous furniture pieces is a source of creative gratification for Saher but there are various challenges attached to this profession. “The people that I deal with are very skilful, but lack an educational background, which means they have no concept of time or deadlines, no sense of loyalty and sometimes are dishonest as well. She’s had people steal from her, trainees have disappeared on her, workers have run off with advances and polishers have mixed water with paints. Saher has to encounter these petty issues on a day to day basis, and their severity increases because she’s a woman. “I think male workers find it hard dealing with female bosses in our country and seriously lack work ethic. I was young and all my workers much older and it has taken me a couple of years to adjust the way I work with them. Now I know how to hire and when to fire. I only have one goal and that is to maintain exceptional quality of my products,” she says as a matter of fact.
The weakest moment for Saher came by when she lost her father, who was her pillar of strength. “For the first time I saw my mother worry about finances. Thankfully my brother and sister jumped in to help with the family business. That’s when I realised that I don’t want to be in a situation like that. I have seen women in amazing marriages getting divorced and picking themselves up from scratch. I would want to be able to support my children if and when I have any. I think the first and foremost thing for any woman to have is financial independence.” However, Saher has never felt the need to be emotionally independent. “The Pakistani society is great when it comes to emotional support. We have close knit families, cousins, siblings, parents and friends, someone or the other is always there to provide support,” she reaffirms.
As far as her advice for other young women like her who want to make something out of their lives she says “This society has set lots of boundaries and limitations for women. It’s hard for women to venture out and people try to stop you, but if you have a dream just make it a reality. Don’t let anything hold you back.” In today’s world, anything is possible. Technology has advanced, industries are booming, it sure seems like the best time to invest in your dreams, according to her. However, this young woman does know how to take her time off from the frenzy of work – whether it’s getting a massage, going on a spontaneous vacation or simply cake binging, once in a while she will switch off and unwind.
Miracle Woman, Saher has been running her company for about years now and has had 3 completely sold-out exhibitions. “The one I had last month, it was a sell out and I didn’t recognise a single person who bought my items. They had seen my stuff on internet or my Instagram page. The feeling of selling your idea to someone who doesn’t know and isn’t buying your products just to support you but because he/she loves your product, it made me feel like I’d conquered something.” During the exhibition came a downpour of rain, her house was flooded but women kept coming and were even fighting over her products. Amidst this chaos Saher took a moment to stand back and watch what was going on – she felt she had finally made a name for herself and this was her Miracle Moment. She diverged from her original path, carved another one out for herself and now sees herself moving fast towards her destination. Her journey, though short as of now, shows that sometimes, a difficult decision is in fact, the right decision.
She is an entrepreneur
She is a mother
She is persistent
“I think Pond’s is doing a fantastic job by celebrating women. The real unsung hero is the woman who is a homemaker. She doesn’t have a paid job but has kids and supports her husband in his career. No man can be CEO of a company if his family isn’t looked after.” For Sarah Khurho, being at home to ensure her family is looked after is of the utmost importance. Her maternal warmth radiates during the interview as she speaks about her family and how the work she does now is designed to ensure that her family doesn’t suffer. Sarah has been a math tutor for 20 years now. Last year she started a home based enterprise which supplies readymade hummus to supermarkets. When she isn’t at her office or teaching mathematics, she is taking care of her two sons.
“The Pakistan of today is very progressive. Women are encouraged to explore their passions, so I haven’t personally felt any challenges and struggle. There has only been support and appreciation.” Math tutoring, for Sarah, is fantastic and fun. She teaches children between 12 and 20 years and gives each student individual attention. The satisfaction she derives from teaching supersedes most things in life. Sarah gives them life lessons and encourages them to have their own niche in society where they are creating something. “Yes, money is a great reward, but it’s not always about that,” says Sarah.
Sarah’s hummus business is relatively new. One of the few challenges are business development and getting new stores on board. It is tough work “but being a woman it’s fantastic, because if I send my staff to negotiate it takes ages, but if I go myself then I’m done in 2 minutes flat. No challenges and struggles, just appreciation and support so it’s very positive.” Managing work with family, however, is still tough no matter how conducive the environment and sometimes Sarah finds herself wishing there were more hours in the day. She believes it’s equally important for her to think about herself and do what makes her happy. “I travel by myself and I cook to relax because I find it therapeutic. I do lots of yoga. I keep a balance and look after myself.” But it’s not an easy thing to do in Pakistan, both for men and women. “Here even if a father wants to go for an all-boys holiday, its frowned upon.”
Sarah believes financial independence is important but very difficult to attain in this patriarchal society. The older generation play a role in this since they feel they should control the younger generation. The culture, according to Sarah, is suppressive and makes it even more critical for women to achieve financial independence.
At work, Sarah enjoys teaching students who are not instinctively good at Math. Teaching them a concept and watching as a light bulb switches on in in their heads and faces light up is her miracle. “That’s an aah moment! A non-math person becoming a math person. Making a difference in anyone’s life would be my wow moment.” Life is a miracle which happens each and every day. We hope to embrace these daily miracles the same way Sarah has!
Sarwat N Shah
She is an entrepreneur
She is an author
She is strong
A lawyer by qualification, the multi-tasking mum, Sarwat, put her career on a back seat when her second child was born as a premature baby at 30 weeks. “I had a very traumatic delivery and he required a lot of care from me and my attention all the time. That’s when I decided to leave my work as a lawyer and opt for something that allows me to have flexible hours,” she explains. Currently, Sarwat is running a real estate consultancy in partnership with her husband, as a trained psychotherapist. She is also the author of the Smart Parents’ Handbook. With so much happening on her professional front, she is a mother of two children and her third one is on its way.
Turning challenges into opportunities is Sarwat’s innate strength. “I have not allowed the difficulties coming my way to pull me down or hold me back. Letting go of my profession as a lawyer was a tough decision to make but I had to forgo it because of the demands motherhood had of me. In our society there is not concept of counselling or seeking professional help, therefore, to decipher between right and wrong was all on my shoulders. I knew that if I take a long break, then it will be difficult to put my corporate career back on track later. At that time, I was not sure of my decision but I am thankful that everything turned out for the best,” maintains Sarwat.
Sarwat acknowledges that with her first pregnancy, a woman feels overwhelmed but after having raised two children, she does not consider her third pregnancy is as testing. This time around, she is happy that she has flexible hours and her consultancy has crossed the stage of infancy. “The baby can accompany me everywhere I go and in everything I do!” she says with a laugh. She believes that this sort of an independent thinking is very important for any woman who aspires to be successful. “In our society, women are always viewed as a dependant, first on their fathers and later on their husbands. A woman must always aspire to be financially and emotionally independent with whatever level of education she is able to pursue.” Working allows a woman to be confident and meeting new people everyday broadens her horizon. The workplace is a teaching ground and according to Sarwat, sets you apart from the rest of the crowd that does not have that sort of exposure.
As the author of a book on parenting, she has a few messages to give to new parents. “Before getting into a career, we go through 4-5 years of specialized education. At work itself, we go through a probation period and several trainings and only then we embark on a path to success. When we become parents, however, we do not prepare ourselves, which takes a toll on the mother not just physically and emotionally but also affects the relationship of the couple. “Prepare yourselves, talk about the challenges, the emotional changes, the relationship changes for an easier transition from being jut a married couple to parents. Resolving issues beforehand always help. If the mother has to quit her job, discuss what options she has and how the finances of the household will be handled. If she plans to continue working, what sort of support will the couple require? Discuss where the family can chip in. Of course, parenthood brings with it various challenges which you simply cannot predict, but the ones that you can foresee, should always be discussed and sorted before the baby arrives,” advises Sarwat.
Sarwat feels strongly about the scale of gender inequality prevalent in Pakistan. “I was raised with three brothers so I was always the privileged one in my family. Gender inequality really became a reality for me when I went for an ultra sound while expecting my first baby. Before telling me the sex of my child, the doctor asked the level of my education and whether my husband wants a boy or a girl. When I inquired why I am being asked so many questions, the doctor revealed that many couples, on finding out that they are expecting a baby girl, have their foetuses aborted. That was extremely upsetting for me,” Sarwat relates.
Sarwat’s Miracle Moment was when she had the realization that switching from a full time career as a lawyer to starting her own consultancy and writing a book on parenting turned out to be the right decision for her, she felt a great sense of joy. Changing her career path for her children, in the midst was a decision filled with uncertainty and a hint of despair but it fortunately led Sarwat to even more exciting destinations. Her journey bears testament to the fact that sometimes when you fall, you fly.
She is a restaurateur
She is a mother
She is expressive
Now wholly and truly Pakistani, Sunita Achrai was born and raised in India and moved to this country after getting married to a Pakistani. With her face lit up by a constant smile, this mother and grandmother is running a business of eateries. “My first restaurant is The Patio where the food is fusion and made with a lot of love. I do it myself and most of the recipes are my own. The second one is a new venture, again fusion, but dhaba style. It’s called KPK which stands for khao, piyo, khisko.” Sunita is shy, but radiant and very devoted to her family.
As life takes it course, one has to go through various ups and downs. Of course, moving from India to Pakistan, leaving her friends and family behind, at the time of her marriage was difficult for her. “I came here when Zia ul Haq was in power. I was a college student when I moved and saw that life for young girls was very different in Pakistan as compared to India. I could not even hold my husband’s hand while walking in a park. “Once I did, and people passed comments,” says Sunita. But her main challenge came when her husband fell ill and she had to take over the reins of the family’s finances. “I had to run the ship and manage the funds. That’s when I decided to start a restaurant. Food has always been my passion and I thought it would also help me with my survival,” says Sunita. Certainly, cooking food for the family in the home kitchen is much different from running a restaurant. “You have to be a people’s person also. I didn’t realize that. I thought I would just be in the kitchen but I had to come out of my comfort zone. What is most difficult is dealing with unhappy customers and doing that was tough. For me to come out in front and talk to people was a big deal. Sitting here today giving this interview is also tough,” explains Sunita.
Sunita started working when she moved to Pakistan and continued to do so even after becoming a mother. It was during the teen years of her children when she felt the need to take a break and concentrate on them and her home. That is when she had to pause and make a choice between motherhood and work. Once they began college, she went back to her career. Life has taught her how to prioritize and juggle various things simultaneously very well. “A woman’s job is to be a juggler I think. It’s not easy but depends on what is needed more at what time, for example, when my husband needed me in the house, I was running the restaurant from the house. Nowadays, with modern technology and cameras, it has become somewhat easier.” She also believes that financial and emotional independence are of paramount importance for any woman to have self-esteem. But while managing to master so many things, a woman must also take out some time just for herself and Sunita has finally come to realize that. “I thought it’s time I took care of myself. I have started yoga and I go for a walk daily. I take out an hour or so just for myself when I play Sudoku or something like that to release the tension and stresses of the day,” proclaims Sunita.
For Sunita Achrai, her Miracle Moment came about when she saw her granddaughter for the first time. “The first cry I heard in the hospital, that was my miracle moment,” she relates. Sunita’s journey has made her realize that to be a better giver, it is important for a woman to take care of herself. Indeed, tomorrow is a better day but it is just as better as you make it. And for tomorrow to be happy, every woman must invest in her physical and mental health today