Tagged with " Personal"
Jun 20, 2013 - Books, Reading    4 Comments

A coming of age story like no other

Golden Boy

When people have been reading for as long as I have, they develop a way of picking up books. They have genres that they like, certain writers they want to read again and again, recommendations by friends and critics or something as random as an interesting title that they must browse through. I use all of the above methods and they have worked for me most of the time. However, the only reason I picked up Golden Boy was that it was set in England and I like stories set in England. The writer Abigail Tarttelin is not someone I have ever heard of, the title was ordinary and the cover was okay but boy, what a book! I think it turned out to be the most profound read of the year – at least for me.

Golden Boy is the story of Max, a sixteen year old who had everything going for him, he was smart, popular, good looking, gentle, kind, good athlete, wanted by girls, respected by his mates, loved by parents and adored by his little brother. Life couldn’t be more perfect, but all started going downhill after a nasty incident, which made him realize that his life is ruled by a secret and how he must protect it to attempt to live a ‘normal’ life.

I generally don’t like books or movies that are centered on a family or push family values probably because I grew up in a country that is not too keen on individualism and the society presses on familial obligations a little too forcefully. The way traditional family is thrust upon us by popular media is also a major turn off but the way Abigail Tarttelin has woven this story – it is in first person by six major characters – is simply beautiful. Despite being a story of a family and what they had to go through collectively in the aftermath of a shocking incident, it is also the story of six individuals Max, his younger brother Daniel, his parents Karen & Steve, his girl friend Sylvie and Dr Archie Verma, told through their voice so that the reader is not influenced by just one voice and constructs and interprets the story the way s/he wants to.

I am not really a crier. If anything, I am one of those people who laugh at most inopportune times. My friends think I should not attend somber events and funerals because I cannot be trusted not to laugh. I don’t cry at romantic melodrama in films and find most of it cheesy, but I cried – cried a bucket load of tears – for Max the protagonist of this novel and one of the most endearing characters that ever leap out of the pages of a book. How can one not empathize with the Golden Boy who is about to lose his halo and has no clue how he has been wronged and he continues to blame himself for it all.

There is no verbosity or philosophical tone to the text, probably because most of the story is told to us by teenagers and a 10 year old, but there is introspection. And the characters – they just break your heart. I wanted to jump into the book and hold Max’s hand and tell him that he is great and wanted to shelter him from everything. How often do we get to feel that way about fictional characters?

The mastery of the writer is amazing, even when she is quoting stuff from Wikipedia in the book – and she did it twice I think – the heart of the story makes up for it. She wrote about Maltesers and STDs and autumn in the same line and somehow made it melancholic and heartrending. Tarttelin has discussed things like motherhood, loneliness, identity and the quest for someone of your own, the idea of ‘normal’, the insecurity of living under the perfect older sibling, the inability of parents to make decisions about their children, the fondness of an older sibling for the younger brother with utmost honesty. Above all, she has created a coming of age story like no other. She has created a world so real that you not just know what each and every one of them are going through, you actually get it.

I read Golden Boy in four days, could have read it in a lot less time but I took breaks in between to cry, to muse, to assess my life until now and think about the choices I have made and to wonder if I was in situations like any of the characters how would I behave. Yes, this book hits you so hard that you are compelled to pause and ponder.

The book taught me the value of empathy and compassion and how badly we need it without even knowing it. I am one of those people who give books to others – usually younger people – when I want them to think about things that I consider important. From now on, Golden Boy would be the book that I would recommend to everyone because we all need to open our hearts a little more, accept the other and unknown and just be gentle and kinder in general. The book affected me in a way very few things have; it made me want to be more open hearted, more loving and a better human being.

Way to go Abigail Tarttelin, you have created an amazing piece of literature that will profoundly affect a lot of your readers and you have done it at the tender age of 25. I cannot recommend this book enough; seriously, go buy your copy now.

 

Jan 7, 2013 - published work, women    19 Comments

The importance of sisterhood



Last week, I wrote an op-ed for Express Tribune on what needs to be done in the aftermath of Delhi gang rape. I wanted to write a lot more but was constrained by space I am allotted in the newspaper.  The piece did not receive many comments either on the Tribune’s website or my personal blog where I cross post my work, but I got a lot of emails. Some from regular readers who liked my ideas, one from an Indian grandfather who wanted a safer Delhi for his two young granddaughters. Some emails from women in Pakistan saying that things are worse in Pakistan and that at least Indians are protesting and have taken to streets and had this incident happened in Lahore, we would not have even known about it. A few emails came from sisters from across the border appreciating the support and concern from their neighbours. I want to thank you all for reading it and feel humbled by your responses. 
While people generally appreciated what I wrote, I got a few emails and tweets (all from Indian men) saying that I should focus on women rights violations in Pakistan and leave India to Indians. One even pointed out that I have never written about the plight of Hindu girls like Rinkle Kumari and chose to write about Jyoti Singh Pandey. Another likened me to Ajmal Kasab and said some choice words about Pakistanis butting in their noses where they are not needed.
Indians with narrow nationalism are not the only one who question what I write. I get asked by Baloch dissidents why do I not write about them, I get asked by the pan Islamic zealots why do I not write about atrocities in Gaza and American aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. While I do respect anyone fighting for liberty and dignity, I am not a professional bleeding heart and would not write about everything that is the hot topic of the day. I don’t touch Baloch issues because I feel I am not equipped enough to write about them and there are far better writers who take on that cause in a much more effective manner. I don’t write about struggles in Bahrain and Palestine because they are far removed from my reality and writing about them just for the sake of writing about them is kind of pointless. Honestly, I feel flattered when people tell me or expect me to write on issues that matter to them – as if me writing about them would make a difference – but it is impossible for anyone (unless that person is Ansar Abbasi) to write about everything under the sun so I refrain from doing that. 

As for the Indians who believe I should first write about the Rinkle Kumaris of Pakistan, I do feel very strongly about the minority rights and have written about them repeatedly, but Jyoti’s plight moved me like Rinkle’s couldn’t. Probably because as an urban resident of a big city who has used public transport and faced threats like harassment, insecurity, robbery day in, day out  on the streets of Karachi, I empathize more with Jyoti than with Rinkle and feel strongly about it. It may not be correct and perhaps Rinkle deserves the same attention but as a writer, I feel more confident when I write about things I strongly believe in or empathize with. Perhaps it is my inability to transcend the personal but that is who I am and that is how I write. 

I also want to point out the importance of sisterhood to those who are willing to understand that women draw strength from each other and if one of them stands up to reclaim their space or seek their rights, others also stand up either in support or to claim their respective rights. I may not benefit directly from the rights movement in India right now, but if the rape laws get amended in India, I would be cheering up for my sisters there and will try to campaign for similar change here in Pakistan.

As far as significance of sisterhood is concerned, let me share a recent example. A fortnight ago, my elder sister and I were flying to Karachi. The plane was packed and the flight attendants were busy serving the passengers. My sister pointed out that a man sitting in the lane in front of us is trying to get fresh with one of the flight attendants. I too started following their conversation. Initially it sounded like a bit of harmless chit chat, then he started asking inappropriate questions and the flight attendant became uncomfortable. She moved away quickly but then every time that girl would pass our section, he would stop her and ask her for something. When she went back to the galley, he followed her and said something to her after which her facial expressions changed and we gathered that it must have been something very improper. Let me also point out that she was very young and probably joined the airline recently and was not sure how to approach the matter. I was quite incensed and wanted to take up the matter but my sister said that we should not intervene and let the flight attendant handle it. Though I was not too happy with it, I said okay.
A couple of minutes later the man who was harassing the flight attendant started chatting with his family member on the other side of the aisle with their bodies hanging out making it almost impossible for the flight attendant to move without touching them or addressing them to move. My sister who asked me to practice restrain lost it at the temerity of those two Lotharios, and asked them if they can stay seated properly so that the others can move freely. The main aggressor turned to my sister and asked her to stay out of it at which I too lost my cool and told him in no uncertain term what kind of a creep he is preying on a young girl who cannot tell him off because of her professional duties and just because she is serving him tea and coffee does not make her his personal chattel and how any woman who works in public space is not there for his unwanted advances. When he said that I am insulting him, I said, even more loudly, that yes, I am publicly humiliating him so that other women should also see how one should deal with a cretin like him and everyone on the plane should know what a miserable excuse of a human being he was. At this point, his mother who was traveling with him but was sitting separately went up to him and asked him to be quiet. A senior citizen suggested that he should be handed over to the airport security. Most encouraging was the fact that no one including the man’s family stopped us from standing up for the flight attendant.  
A few minutes later the senior flight attendant who was at the other end of the plane came up and asked him if he was harassing the junior flight attendant and told him off that he may have bought a ticket but that does not give him license to misbehave with the staff.
When the flight landed in Karachi, it took a little bit longer than usual for the doors to open and for the passengers to disembark. We found out that the senior flight attendant had called the ground security staff who detained the harasser from getting off the plane. The senior flight attendant at the gate who was seeing the passengers off thanked me for standing up for the junior flight attendant. My sister and I don’t know what happened to that guy after we left the aircraft but what I do know is that incident helped a lot of women.
All the flight attendants got to know that passengers barring one view them as individuals with right to dignity at work. The junior flight attendant drew strength from the incident and I am sure that if anything inappropriate will happen to her in future, she is now better equipped to deal with it. Other women who witnessed the incident learned that keeping quiet is NOT the answer and when you raise your voice, things change. My sister who has lead a very sheltered life stood up for someone else. Not only she felt great about that afterwards and had a sense of accomplishment, she understands me better and respects my need for this crusade. That man and others who witnessed the incident will think twice before doing something like that because they know that someone might retaliate and tell them off. All in all, one stood up and other sisters drew strength, lessons and understanding from it all. 
Sisterhood is important and I dedicate this post to all who understand it and stand for it. Misogyny is best fought in company of the sisters who are fighting it out on their own turfs no matter what part of the world they live in. 
PS: This is a rather long personal rant, apologies if you did not know what you were getting into before you started reading it.  

PPS: Express Tribune Blogs took this one after it was published here with a couple of additions. It can be viewed here.

Jul 17, 2012 - Uncategorized    5 Comments

Fifty-one shades of grey!

Fifty-one shades of grey! 


Yeah, that’s how one feels when one loses everything – all the money, the goddamned cell phone, the credit and debit cards, the passport, all other forms of identification such as the id card and the driving license – in a frigging foreign country where no one understands the languages one speaks! 

Yeah that is exactly when you feel you have seen every shade of grey that existed – or never existed before! 
Jun 27, 2012 - Samra Muslim, travel    7 Comments

and off we go to Abu Dhabi

For as long as I can remember, there has been one thing that has not changed about me – my desire to travel. I want to see things that others around me don’t get to see, I want to experience life in all its varied shades and I want to meet people from every corner of the world because they reiterate my faith that despite all the differences, we are essentially the same with similar aspirations and ambitions in life, so when I get an opportunity to travel – whether it is to China or Charsadda, Tando Allahyar or Tripoli – I take it and run with it. 
Earlier this year, Samra Muslim from Etihad Airways contacted me about a project where they will take an assortment of people – photographers, lifestyle journalists and a blogger or two – to their headquarters in Abu Dhabi and show them how the airline works and the city that is home to it. As I have never been one to say no to travel (during my younger days, my most cherished wish was to become a travel writer) I thanked her for the opportunity and said yes to it. For some reason or the other the tour got delayed, but when it happened, it was definitely worth the wait. 
The Etihad tour – or LivEY as it is called across the social media platforms – is an experiment where they put together journalists, photographers, bloggers and social media enthusiasts and they experience Etihad hospitality and get to see the city of Abu Dhabi – courtesy Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. 
So we packed our bags and went to Abu Dhabi last week from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Despite being a seasoned traveler, I checked the time and flight number and printed out my ticket, I was in for a surprise when I got my boarding card and discovered that I have a business class ticket! As I rarely get to travel in business class, I was very happy with this unexpected surprise. Even before I embarked on the journey, I was already in love with the Etihad people in general and Samra Muslim in particular.
It would not be wrong if I say that flying business class in Etihad was quite an experience and I am wondering how will I go back to my old ‘economy class cheapest ticket’ life. It started off with me falling in love with the seats that come with their own foot rests – they can be stretched after taking off for maximum comfort– and discovering the in-seat massager. I couldn’t wait to take off and start the massager – yes, I was that excited about it. The aircraft was a Boeing 777 – beautiful and spacious – and the hospitality was exceptional, but I would like to state that Etihad had perhaps the best coffee that has been offered to me by any airline, as I have traveled in airlines from 4 different continents – North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, I think my recommendation should carry some weight. In addition to the regular cabin crew that took care of the passengers, the first class and business class have a Cabin Manager who not only take care of food but also go and chat with all the passengers about something of their interest which is taking hospitality to another level. On my Abu Dhabi bound flight, I got to chat with Melna – the cabin manager – who came to my seat when I was watching This Means War and we ended up discussing the film and weighed the pros & cons of falling for guys like Tom Hardy and Chris Pine  (come on, no matter what you do and where you are from, girls do discuss romantic comedies and the good looking actors in it, we are programmed that way). We both thought Pine is way cuter but Hardy wins it with his tattoos and British accent.  We also agreed that things like this – two handsome men fighting over a girl – never happen outside cinemas.
Once we landed in Abu Dhabi, I met Samra and the rest of the gang, and after putting our stuff in the hotel, we were taken to Etihad HQ for a tour and a briefing. We were greeted by Calum D. Laming – Head of Guest Experience and Lee Shave – Vice President Guest Experience. Both the gentlemen took us around and showed us what it is like to be part of the Etihad family. I felt like I was back in school and was visiting a place which will help me decide about my career and what I want to do in future(I wanted to become an ice-cream maker after visiting an ice-cream factory – yes, I am that easily impressed), unfortunately I am too old to change professions otherwise I would have totally jumped the ship and tried to inveigle my way into the company.
Here are some shots from the trip.

The simulators where Etihad pilots practice, I so wanted to get in one but they were not free

Calum Laming with the group

The photographs of Etihad graduates – ranging from flight attendants to chefs to food & beverage managers.

The flight attendants during training in an Economy class cabin model

The super private First Class seat

The Business Class

Training Day

For First Class Passengers

For the Business Class

For Economy Class
Training room for emergency situations

And we have a model amongst us!

For those who want to try their luck with LivEY, they should check out the LivEY facebook page, who knows, you could be part of the next group.

Apr 23, 2012 - Uncategorized    7 Comments

Y U frandshipping me?

Tazeen: Who is Beena and why she wants to be friends with me? Facebook stalking much? 
HBM: huh?
Tazeen:No seriously, why do all your female friends wants to frandship me? Someone needs to tell them I am not a dude :S
HBM: Block and delete her, she wants to be friends with all my friends. Block the fuck out of her. I plan to do the same if she doesn’t stop. 
Tazeen: Btw, how can I block the fuck outta her?
HBM: Who else has added you from my list? I am working on my restricted list and planning to right-size my friends list? Any information you provide will really help give mankind a better tomorrow. 
Tazeen: For starters, I couldn’t care less about the better tomorrow for mankind. As far as your friends are concerned, I have already befriended Sana and Ayesha from your list and they are both harmless but this one is hardcore. She keeps sending requests every other day without even introducing herself. It’s like stalker Shahrukh Khan, from those dysfunctional k…k..k..k..Kiran days, breathing down on the phone, scaring the socks off your feet. 

HBM: Don’t tell her you think she is like Shahrukh Khan, she will probably take it as a compliment. Sana is okay. I asked Ayesha how she knew you and she said she had been commenting on your blog. Beena just got a stern warning from me. I suppose you should see an option to block her when you reject her request next. 
Tazeen: Hmmm
HBM: But wow you are a chick magnet!!!
Tazeen: I know! Just one of those several things that I never aspired to be. 🙁
Apr 20, 2012 - Uncategorized    16 Comments

Five years on ….

It was a slow day at work and I got an email from my friend Asma, sending me the link to her blog which she had just started. It was part funny, part ironic and reflected Asma to the T. 

Next thing you know, I had a blog (being the self loving narcissist that I am, the URL had to have my name – twice) and I started posting. Initially it was an odd random rant or two and I used to force my friends to read it. Somehow along the way, I got readers who were reading, commenting and encouraging me to write more. Here I am five years on and still blogging. 

Here is to all the amazing people who started off as readers and then became my friends and to all the wonderful people across the world who keep coming back even when I am boring and irregular. I am grateful to you all.

keep coming back 🙂 

PS: I am really curious about the regular readers from places like Delft, Hamburg and Finland. Drop in a line to say hello. I would like to put a name to the unnamed regulars. 🙂 


PPS: This is the longest I have been committed to anything. My longest job stint was 2 years and 10 months.

Jan 18, 2012 - rant, TTP, USA    11 Comments

Another foul murder; RIP Mukarram Khan


On my way back home last evening, I received a text from my colleague that Mukarram Sahab has been shot and was taken to a hospital in Peshawar.  So stunned was I with the news that I did not realize when the signal turned green and only moved when the cars behind me honked. An hour later, I found that Mukarram Sahabb has succumbed to his injuries. 
Mukarram Khan Atif was a senior tribal journalist from Mohmand Agency and was killed on January 17th 2012 in a targeted attack after receiving repeated threats to his life. He was offering evening prayers in a mosque when he was shot in the head by two gunmen. 
I have known Mukarram Sahab for only a few weeks but he made a profound impact in that very short time. I am city girl, from Karachi, with my fair share of prejudices about the tribesmen and how they behave. Mukarram Sahab was one of those people who helped me in looking beyond the stereotype of a stern and unyielding tribesman with his intelligence, valour, grace, and self effacing sense of humour. He humanized the area and its people for me, a city dweller who only conjured up images of Hakimullah Mehsud and the likes in reference with the tribesmen from FATA. 
Mukarram Sahab had many interesting stories about his time as a reporter in the tribal region, be it about interviewing suspected suicide bombers, traveling to remote areas on foot for stories and sneaking into difficult areas as a goat shepherd. Back in 2001, Mukarram Sahab was taken hostage by Afghan Taliban along with a French and a Pakistani journalist. All three of them were charged with spying for USA by the Taliban government.  As none of the other two journalists could speak Pashto, he was asked to interpret for them by the Taliban government in Afghanistan. He said that he would do it but he would want to be paid for his services.  He actually managed to charge the Taliban govt. for interpreting for the two journalists in captivity. I asked him how he pulled off this incredulous feat and he said that he takes his work very seriously and believe in being paid for whatever he does.  I asked him to write all such fascinating stories and share it with the world.  Mukarram Sahab agreed and said that one day he would sit down and write. He kept an archive of all his radio reports for Deewa and thought that he would transcribe it all when he can spare the time. Unfortunately, he was killed by the TTP for not giving them enough coverage on those radio reports and the world will never know about his hard to believe escapades. 

Deaths and journalists’ murders are a sad reality in Pakistan, but what irritates me most is the way local media reports these incidents. Dawn, a supposedly responsible newspaper came up with the headline “Pakistani journalist working for US media shot dead. The News, a generally horrid newspaper came up with the headline “VoA journalist assassinated in Charsadda.” What are these reports trying to imply? That he was working for a US media house and in some way responsible for his own murder? Are we absolving his murderers of their brutality?  Does his employment for a foreign news organization make him less of a Pakistani or less of a human?  Mukarram Sahab was a Pakistani journalist working as a correspondent for Dunya TV and a stringer for VoA’s Pashto service Deewa Radio. It’s about time we claim our people and heroes and give them due credit for their courage, fearlessness, and bravery. 

Mukarram Khan Atif in Islamabad


Reporters Sans Frontier has declared Pakistan the most dangerous country for journalists second year in a row. I never thought that the first journalist to die this year would be someone I knew personally. Mukarram Sahab, you were a fine gentleman and a brave soul. May you rest in peace.
Nov 17, 2011 - religion    25 Comments

The capacity to love ‘the other’


I heard the word Xenophobia for the first time when I attended my International Relations 101 class. My high school existence was pretty idyllic where acing Calculus was my biggest challenge. I had no idea that there existed a world where anyone can fear or hate the other for being just that – ‘the other’ – someone who looked different, spoke a different language or believed in a different God.

We Pakistanis hate ‘the other’ with unmitigated gusto. The capacity to hate ‘the other’ is not exclusive to us; there will always be some people everywhere who are more bigoted and dislike ‘the other’. What makes our hatred of ‘the other’ unique is that it has a constitutional sanction in shape of the Blasphemy laws and Article 295 and we feed that hatred through curricula demonizing ‘the other’.  These laws and others have created an atmosphere of violence and vigilantism that not only shatters the very fabric of society; it makes the whole country insecure – for everyone – the persecutors, the persecuted and everyone in between, but more so for the religious minorities, women and those who raise voice against that vigilantism.
As a person who is interested in minority rights, I have been following up on all the terrible things that go on in the name of vigilantism but it was all kinda abstract for me before I met Bee through a mutual friend. Bee is a smart, educated young woman from a well off family who looked fairly satisfied with her life. When I started cribbing about my lack of decent employment (for me anything that pays me less than a gazillion rupees is pure unadulterated crap which basically means all the things I have ever done), she too mentioned that she would like to do something more dynamic and challenging but she cannot leave her job. When I asked why, she told me that being an Ahmadi, she is afraid that she will be judged and/or hounded for her faith. She feels safe in her current employment because it has a relatively liberal and multicultural environment – something which is generally lacking in Pakistan. As someone who has resigned from a well paid job in protest because a colleague refused to furnish a written apology for bad behavior or because I did not feel like waking up at the crack of the dawn, I was deeply saddened to know that one could be forced to stick with a dead end boring job because the alternative could be harassment or persecution.

I may sound like an idealist (Which I most certainly am NOT) but I strongly believe that the key to overcoming the hatred is to start being friends with at least one of ‘the others’. Once you get to know one ‘other’, chances are that you would not jump too quickly to judge and persecute the rest of ‘the others’.
I want to salute everyone who goes out of his/her way to include ‘the other’, to make friends with ‘the other’, to extend a helping hand to ‘the other’ and to fall in love with ‘the other’. They certainly make this world a better place. On a personal note, I mourned the deaths of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer this year and learned about the fear that Bee has to face every day, but I also learned that people can come together in most incredible ways. I cherished the unions of the friends who dared to love ‘the other’ – a Greek friend from college married an Arab, another English class mate married a Bangladeshi, a Pakistani friend married a German and another Pakistani American virtual friend married a half Japanese half American and is now expecting a baby who is ¼ Japanese, ¼ American and ½ Pakistani. Three of my friends opened their hearts and homes and adopted babies from other countries. Anyone who has ever adopted a child would know how lengthy and at times heart breakingly tedious the process of International adoption is, but they persisted and they persisted because they had the capacity to love ‘the other’.

For once in my life, I want to be an optimist and believe that if my beautiful, wonderful and amazingly awesome friends can overcome the fear of ‘the other’ and grow to love ‘the other’ as partners, lovers, friends and children, the rest of the world can follow suit.

Thanks to my most amazing parents and my fantastic friends who taught me about compassion and understanding, I too have learned how to appreciate, respect, cherish and love ‘the other’, irrespective of the differences, at times perhaps because of those very differences. Here is to the human capacity to love ‘the other’.

May 20, 2011 - Uncategorized    6 Comments

You can face it all when you have friends like that …

This post is dedicated to my friend P, who has been most thoughtful, esp. when it mattered most, would always say the right things to cheer me up and have been generally a great guy.

Earlier today, he and I were bitching about how some people – who in our opinion are not as bright as we are – get their bylines everywhere and we get told off by the editors – actually we don’t even get told off by the editors – we are just ignored.

Then as two perpetual losers we decided that we are too good for this country and we should focus on foreign publications and as random as we are, we also discussed people who slept their way up in the business. Here is how he turned my regular whinefest into laughter.

We all could do with a friend like that.

T: at times I feel like such a bloody loser.

P: Losers ye log hain, not you (he is adorable and seriously good for my ego and sanity)

T: Remember —- , we all know s/he slept all around to get where s/he is

P: hahaha… Acha maybe I’ll ask someone in New York to sleep with someone at NYT for us.

T: Dude, you actually have people who are willing to sleep with random strangers on our behalf?

P: Maybe, depends on who the random stranger is, but yes.

T: hahaha, if you can pull it off then you are more powerful than Altaf Hussain, Bal Thakrey and the Pope, all rolled in one.

Apr 22, 2011 - rant    9 Comments

Is it PR, is it pimping or is it fraud?

A friend and I have always dreamed about opening up a PR firm where we would provide top of the shelf consultancy on rebranding, lifestyle public relations, crisis public relations, running PR campaigns to influence policymaking and creating a personal brand and image makeovers for politicians and celebrities. Our dream clients would have been the cricket board (because no matter who is at the helm of the affairs, they repeatedly manage to shoot themselves in the foot) and Shiekh Rasheed because we thought he would just be super interesting to work with.
My friend is currently pursuing a post grad degree in PR in USC and visits Jimmy Kimmel Show (Or was it Jimmy Fallon) sets to learn the tricks of the trade while I slave my days away dealing with clients who want this and that and the other and writing an occasional piece or two to remind myself of the good days when I used to do it full time. The point of this long winding personal story is that PR is something I hold in high esteem and have utmost respect for the people who do it well without excessive schmoozing.
Recently, a UAE based newspaper approached me to do a profile on a local celebrity to which I readily agreed. The said celebrity is someone who I find rather interesting (just for the contradictions he represents if for nothing else) and thought he would make an excellent subject to write on.
I called a reporter friend and got his number. Called him quite a few times and sent him various text messages but did not get any response. Someone suggested that I should find a common friend who can introduce me to him if I really want him to talk to me. I approached a famous columnist who very kindly introduced me to another journalist who is apparently friends with this superstar celebrity. Both these gentlemen – the columnist and the journalist – went out of their way to help me, a person they have never met. But the celebrity remained elusive.
Then another friend suggested that I should approach his PR representative and maybe he can get me a time slot with this guy. Honestly, I was getting tired but thought there is no harm in approaching this guy, after all it is his job that his client gets the right kind of exposure in worthy publications so I approached him. The PR guy Arsalan Shah claims to represent a few high profile celebrities. In the beginning he was amenable and wanted me to email him the details. I told him the name of publication interested and the kind of piece I wanted to do, he then emailed and said yes, the interview can be arranged. I was happy that my persistence paid off and I finally managed to get a response. I emailed the PR rep asking him about the date/time/venue of the proposed interview.
I then received an email saying that he is willing to arrange for the interview but I need to cough up something to the tune of $1000 to $1500 to get face time with the celebrity is question. the exact words he wrote were:

…. but the entire speculation will be charged to an amount no less than USD 1000 – USD 1500. If geared up from your side, we can talk over further parley on my direct line.

I was stunned! $1000 to $1500! He wanted to be paid to arrange for an interview and he was expecting me to haggle with him over the price!!!! What was he? A PR guy or a pimp who not only wanted to be paid in cold hard cash but also willing to negotiate the price! And he called setting up an interview speculation!!!! Just when I thought I should write to him telling him what I think of his offer and where he can stuff it, I got a text from the reporter friend of the star saying that the celeb in question does not want to do any interviews, period.

I then realized that the PR guy probably have not even spoken to his client and wanted to make some extra cash on the side. I am not really sure if this guy was a PR professional, a glorified pimp or a fraudster out to con gullible journalists. If I were that celebrity I would fire this guy before he can type in the dollar sign.

PS: The celebrity in question is NOT Shahid Afridi. From what I know and have heard, Lala does not ask for money for interviews.

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