Your Dad the Pakistan TV Star
I have remembered another story from travels past and thought I should jot it down before I forget:
During my last trip to Pakistan in 2010 I was treated incredibly well by all the locals I met, greeted with lots of “thank-you-for coming” smiles that were both inquisitive and apprehensive of my reaction to their country. This was a time when very few people in my industry could travel to Pakistan as their employers would not let them. It was following a couple of years of heightened alert and increased terrorism following a large bomb at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad and civil unrest due to political instability. Your mum was pregnant with you at the time and was anxious about my trip, but I know from experience that perceptions from the outside are always overstated and incorrect. I only saw a handful of white faces during my 8 day stay, all on which were in my hotel in Islamabad and one of which I think was the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie. She was there to raise awareness of displaced refugees and the impact of NATO operations in the region at the same time as me and I saw someone very much like her leaving my hotel one morning.
My stay co-incided with Ramadan and every evening was therefore a social event to break the fast (an Iftar), eat traditional treats and talk business. At one event I met gaggles of fashionable women, all well groomed, well-educated and full of strong opinion and life. My Pakistani colleague was really well connected and knew a great deal of people in each city we visited. One of her contacts was Ayesha Sana, a daytime TV star and we were somehow invited onto her show together to talk about education in the UK.
And so it was that I found myself in front of a lightbulb-lined mirror having my hair heavily coated in gel by a camp make-up assistant in a rather grotty green room of the PKTV studios. He spiked it up aggressively, stood back and stated proudly, “There you go my friend, Bradford ready!”, as if that is a good thing. So not only was I going to make a fool of myself on national television, I was going to do it with bad hair.
We were ushered into the studio and sat, waiting our turn whilst I tried to follow what was going on. Someone was talking about bangles, showing examples on a display table. The odd word or phrase in English, but otherwise I had no idea what was going on. This was a light-hearted lifestyle programme, aimed at women in the home, I thought. Before I knew it the ads were on and I was being miked up. “Don’t worry, relax, you’ll be fine. Nice hair,” said Ayesha with a warm smile, before having her make-up touched up, finishing a text on her mobile and shouting fiercely at a cameraman. Her beaming smile appeared again instantly after her tirade and she started to speak at camera, welcoming the viewers back and introducing me. I can’t remember much about the next 20 minutes but I did manage to record it all on Sky TV
back home and I don’t think I did too bad a job of being relaxed, giving light-hearted answers and trying to charm Ayesha. My colleague was a natural and rescued me a few times I think.
Glad it was over, we went to a shopping mall that evening for dinner where I was instantly recognised by a fellow diner. “I saw you on Meena Bazaar today”, she said and right there and then I knew celebrity. Your father was a z-lost celeb in Pakistan for a day.
The rest of my trip was fine, without a hint of trouble. I even had a couple of whiskeys, which I thought would be impossible in Pakistan. It was on a rooftop in Lahore overlooking the big red mosque at sunset and was a lasting image for me. Beautiful.
Pakistan has suffered many problems in recent decades and is a complex country, to often dictated to by outside events,
hindering its progress. There are elections this year and Imran Khan, the former cricketer, has a huge following. He promises reform, independence from external forces and to clamp down on corruption that interferes with everyday life there. I do hope he makes it to the election alive, is elected and can make some changes. The world needs it.
I’m on another plane as I write this, at the beginning of a two week trip away from you to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. Great
places to visit, but a long time to not see you. You are 2 years old and hilarious and incredibly cute. We found out yesterday at a 20 week scan that you will have a sister in August, which is just lovely and so exciting. You’ll make the best older brother.