A freelance writer in Pakistan

Found this article about how my life began as a writer.

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I became a writer quite by accident. And like all accidents… it happened rather suddenly. One fine morning Najib (my dearly beloved husband) walked into the room, the shaving foam still on one side of his face, and announced that “Kuwait has been taken over!” He had fixed a radio in the bathroom. (Yes, this is August 1990)

“That’s impossible!” I cried out. Having lived in Kuwait for over three years, one felt rather attached to the place. It was a real shock to hear that a country can just be taken over in this day and age.

Anyhow, the next few days confirmed the news. The entire world was involved in the drama it seemed. There were hot discussions taking place everywhere. It turned out that hardly anyone had heard of Kuwait. And even if they had, it wasn’t much. Whatever the case, one felt rather sad and involved. No one seemed to understand.

One fine night, I had had enough! I could not sleep and decided to write about what Kuwait was really like. – An alive, kicking and breathing country. Specially, it had no hard feelings towards anyone. Luckily it was a holiday the next day, and I just kept writing all day.

“Why am I doing this?” I kept asking myself. Who would ever print it? Who would print anything written by me? – An unknown nonentity?

But I carried on.

The kids had often seen me at the computer, but were intrigued to hear that I am writing an article. Najib, also took over the usual household demands on me, and let me work undisturbed.

When I finished the work and gingerly handed it to my Buddy (that’s what we called each other!), he went into the bedroom and read it quietly. Then he emerged with a pen in one hand and my thoroughly edited version of the article in the other.

This was the beginning of a big row between us.

“What made you touch my article with a pen, without asking me?”

“If you think anyone would even look at this stuff, you are sadly mistaken!”

“It’s my article, you have no right to touch it without my permission. I only wanted your opinion.”

“I cannot give an opinion on a piece of such badly written stuff. Look at the grammar, the style, and typing mistakes. How can you justify this has been done on a computer?!!”

“I only want you to read the gist of it, the meaning, the thoughts. I will do up the grammar stuff and spellings later!”

“By the way, whom are you planning to send it to?”

“Nothing but the best!” I retorted, “The Dawn newspaper.”

“Well if you want it to go to the best, it better look the best too.” – Was his prompt reply.

The next night Buddy didn’t sleep. All night he worked on the article. He put the articles’ file through Ventura and gave it a proper look. Next day he went and got a print out of it from a laser printer. (Ours was a dot-matrix printer.)

I had to admit. It did look good. And my article was still my own.

Then I posted it. But I never thought it would get printed.

It’s a tough world after all.

Three months later. One Friday morning (Friday is a holiday in Pakistan) I was woken up by an excited husband and kids. “Hey, look at this, your article is printed!” My daughters Nataliya and Nadiya were jumping up and down in joy. And Hubby dear had a smug look on his face! We hugged each other and were really excited.

A few days later I received a phone call from Dawn, they were opening a mid-week magazine The Tuesday Review, would I write regularly for them?

That was the beginning of my career of freelance writing in Pakistan.

Back in August 1991 we were in Karachi, and I was a computer teacher at the PAF School near our home. I kept contributing to the newspaper on various subjects mostly related to the home, because I have a Masters’ degree in Home Economics.

As it turned out, the men – mostly Najib’s friends – used to read my articles with as much interest as my friends. I realized that my articles are too much ‘for ladies only’ , so I started writing on subjects like “stress management”, and “time management”. Once I met the tv star Muhammad Qavi Khan, (I was on my way to Rawalpindi for delivery of my daughter Waliya then,) and asked for his permission for an interview at a later date. That turned out to be quite a success. So I started writing reviews on television programs for the TV Magazine. So, one thing kept leading to another. I realized, that there is really no shortage of topics or newspapers and magazines.

When things got dull, I’d do a humorous article. I really love writing humor. It’s as much fun to write as it is to read.

I don’t think I mentioned it so far, but my husband is an Air Force officer. We can get posted out of a place at any time. That is what happened to us. Last year. Now we find ourselves at the Northern end of Pakistan – in Peshawar.

When I was leaving Karachi, and bidding the editors farewell, they asked me to be their Peshawar representative. That’s how I had my own page with interesting information about life in Peshawar in The Tuesday Review.

Of course, free lancing has its own hazards. You have to organize your home to make sure you write regularly. That gets very tough when you are on the move most of the time. Or when you are entertaining guests in your home, or when someone in the family is ill. – Especially when you have a baby.

To have a third baby in an over populated country like our’s is crazy, but that is just what we had. Between us, she is really a bundle of joy  ( -sometimes causing me to become a bundle of nerves!) She hates me to be at the computer. So I sneak in when she is asleep (like right now!) When she wakes up she will come to me, and put her little hand towards the keyboard and press. Or look at me and shake her head, and then admonish me with one tiny finger and say “No!”. If I don’t stop she will press as many keys as she can manage, standing on tip toe.

One day, the printer wasn’t behaving itself. I was really getting frantic. The little Madam, walked in and went straight towards the keyboard and pressed the usual “Enter” key. Immediately the printer started printing!

I am getting offers of working in local newspapers now, but I am enjoying freelancing (and taking care of my baby at home.) I write the Newsletter for the local Pearl Continental hotel which is a five star hotel. I write whenever I feel like it, for other newspapers and magazines. The welcome cheques come in through the mail. The amount doesn’t seem much at first. But if I am careful to not touch it, and let it mount up, by the end of the year, it amounts to a sizable amount.

It’s a fun job.

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