1. How are you and how was your day so far?
Thank you for having me, so far the day has been pretty blank and I haven’t done much today but hopefully after this interview I will feel better.
2. You have done many things in the past and still doing many things, but you started as a 15 year-old writer with your novella ‘A story of Mexico’, how was that experience?
It was a rollercoaster. I would sum up that time with the word ‘confused’, because nobody knew who I was or what I was trying to give out to the world. It was very adventurous and trilling, because I was able to find my way on my own. The whole venture was emotional, from finding someone to publish it for, to dealing with a doubtful family- but for me my disability played a huge role and I desperately wanted to achieve something. It was born out of pain, and a need to be heard and understood, but the writing part of it was fun, since expressing yourself on paper is always good.
3. Was there any difficulty you went through with the novel and the media or the media attention surrounding you?
No not really there wasn’t any difficulty. The media helped me out a lot, and people in general were impressed and supportive and generally happy. As a young girl growing up, studying and handling activism I had difficulties juggling everything, but by the end I had a concrete identity. I was not just the girl in the wheelchair I was an author, so yeah, it all paid off.
4. What was the best part of that episode in your life?
The best part was that episode with Hina Hiyaat, she had this show on Geo called ‘Geo Hina kay Saat’.
5. How is your new book ‘The Perfect Situation’, different from your first novel?
It is completely different. ‘The story of Mexico’ was a classical style novel which I was experimenting with, while ‘The Perfect Situation’, is about this teenage girl growing up in Pakistan, and it’s light and comical almost. Besides that hopefully, this year I will publish my first autobiography called ‘Surpassing Limits’, and I want to self publish it to promote the culture in Pakistan.
6. What do you like to read yourself and what was the most recent thing you read?
I mostly read UN reports now, since that is where I work now, almost all things related to development. I read to understand my needs better, as a change maker because in a way I want to save the world, and these documents give me a good understanding of what I need to do. As far as novels are concerned I’ve recently just read my course books and some of my own notes from the past.
7. How did you first get involved with leadership training and activism?
In my case when the book came out we had a crisis in the country, which was the earthquake, I felt left out because I thought I could not help out in as a regular person would. So what I did was I started selling my book to raise funds for the victims, and from then on I was motivated to do something for the country. I went out on many training programs around the world, and I started teaching everything I learned to people back home. It has been a success and we do lots of creative programs and pieces of training.
8. What is leadership to you and what makes a good leader?
Leadership to me having self-respect and having integrity because a person who has self-respect won’t go and hurt other people. I would rather go out and do something productive than sitting home and become a couch potato, so yes these two things are extremely important to me. You don’t need podiums to be the leader, leadership could be silent, and there is a difference between being a leader and having leadership qualities. And we don’t really need many leaders as much as we need funny, good people, and the bench mark to be one should not be so high that no one can think of themselves as one. I hope I’ve made my point here.
9. What do young people in Pakistan need according to you?
I think young people in Pakistan need themselves; they need to respect themselves and see themselves as important. We don’t take ourselves seriously, that’s not entirely our fault because we are spoon fed from such a young age, and not made to feel responsible for ourselves, our concept of love means crippling someone or their growth. Nobody told me that I should take care of myself, or said that I should stand up on your feet, but I did and here I am now. So they need to take responsibility for themselves and their education, which will result in the development of better society.
10. Where do you get your energy and who are your role models?
The biggest dilemma of my life was that I had no role models because you need to relate someone in order to make them your role models. So having a disability I had no one to look up to since disabilities are so diverse and unique, so I could not relate to someone with visual imparities, so I really just to look up to myself for the most part. So I grew with very little idols, there was nobody else, I was glad about being alive. I’m alive so why not work. Life is my inspiration.
11. What’s your everyday life like?
As a social innovator, I don’t really have a life, entrepreneurs are like that, and they are always working. My week consists of meetings, and at least one corporate training and one in-house training, swimming and food, lots of research and sleeping, almost anywhere, alongside traveling, so that’s a lot of what I do.
12. Many of those people you trained have gone on to do many things, how does that make you feel?
That makes me feel great, but I don’t take credit for their achievements, it’s not my programs is what made them amazing, they already were and my work was just a helpful push. I hope they do greater things and lead happy lives.
13. Are there any dark secrets in the leadership industry?
Not at all, because it’s all open and out there that the trainer is a human being, with a family and things to do. You can’t look at trainers as angels, they just know how to deliver things well, and that’s what sells. It is the same as other industries, and there is a gender bias, since men are preferred and they outnumber women. Besides that, I feel at times, that I was given jobs being seen as a child, but overall nothing too unique compared to other industries.
14. You’ve motivated thousands of people over the years, who inspires you when you are down?
Like I said it’s sad to think about the initial lack of role models, but over the years I’ve met lots of people who lift my spirits. There is Waqar Rana my manager; there is Zoya, Isba, Waleed Rana, Sadaf and people out of the country. But that is friendship and they love me, which is a good thing, and I love them too.
15. Is there any improvement in the help and rights of disabled people in the country?
Well, that is a very broad country, but there is an improvement, people and their views and beliefs are shifting which is needed. I would be satisfied when the stigma attached to us is gone, and people start treating us the same as other people. I get happy when a disabled person gets a job or gets married on time; otherwise, people do appreciate what I do, but how many of them actually offer to give me a job, or build a ramp for me, or give me their son’s hand in marriage like any other girl. Until that happens I will not be satisfied.
16. Who are some leaders or motivators that you admire?
Oh God! Nobody actually, they may be good for their own niche or movement, but I haven’t come across any leader that has fought for disabled people’s rights. They have not come down to my space, I really cannot any leader until they actually do something, then I might stop being sadistic about it.
17. How do you manage everything so easily?
Lots of sleep and lots of food, I think these two are big helpers for me, and I pick being happy and bubbly over having the perfect body everyone is always after unless it’s a health risk for me. So yes, sleep and food are what keep me fueled.
18. Do you feel like a celebrity?
I don’t like to think of myself as one, but I have lots of people around me who show me lots of love and pamper, my friends do that, and I guess their love makes me feel like one. I truly am blessed to have them.
19. Is it fun being a loved and respected role model?
Yes, it is, but it’s a big responsibility since people have certain expectations from you. But I hope I keep the bar up, and not fall short of love and respect from the people.
20. What kind of people come to your workshops?
All people, it’s very diverse. I’ve had kids, parents, boys, girls, and pretty much all ages and categories, which is a good thing that I feel proud about.
21. What do people find it so hard to fight for what they want?
Because they are always taught to be scared, they are not taught that they the best creation of God, and that the problems created around them were made by people. People are not meant to be scared of other people, because when Allah made everything it was perfect until people messed it up, so a Muslim person should have more faith in himself, and realize that it’s all in the mind.
22. How can negativity be battled?
It cannot be battled, you just have to aware of it, and keep in mind that positivity is there as well. I think people should them both for the situations that require either negativity or positivity and make the most of their feelings.
23. What do you do for fun?
I have come to the conclusion that I like to work for fun the whole process of it, I enjoy talking about religion Allah, Prophets their lives and families, and food of course.
24. What do you like to eat?
I like to eat everything, I was moody when I was younger but now anything goes. I like seafood, like salmon, sushi, and prawns when I’m traveling and I like vegetables also. But, yeah I like to eat everything now.
25. Which animals do you like?
I like elephants; I think they’re very cute. They would be my favorite animal.
26. Your favorite hangout location?
I don’t have many options, since most places don’t have facilities for me, but I mostly go to DHA Club. I go and sit there; I swim, have food and read in the library, which is enjoyable.
27. Your favorite movie?
I really liked Kill Bill, it was interesting. There was a lot of blood, but I enjoyed it.
28. This is our last question and thanks to you for being with us, what do you have planned for the future?
I have a program called lemonade, which I am excited for, and then I have my third book in the making, ‘Surpassing Limits’. It will come out soon, and I hope I get reviews for it and thank you for this opportunity.