Vanity Fair

Its so frustrating when after fighting fights much bigger than myself and taking on ridiculous challenges and coming out as the victor at 37 years of age I am struggling with body image issues particularly because of my expanding waist line. It just plain disgusts me.

I didn’t have weight issues except for a couple of years between age 10 and 12. Other than that even after two kids (given a generous post-pregnancy time to reclaim my body) I was at an envious weight. And then entrepreneurship hit hard and somewhere along the way the stress that comes naturally with growing a business, working a job, raising kids, looking after the home kinda started getting to me. So more and more time in front of the screen eating whatever the hell I could get my hands on and less time outside enjoying things like the weather or a walk or a hang out with friends.

No, I am not feeling sorry for myself. And I don’t want you to feel sorry for me either. I am just mad at myself. Look at all super successful people. They handle all above I mentioned and yet they stay super fit. I see men and women my age, younger, older, doing way more than me and somehow they keep things together and find the time to exercise and eat healthy.

*screams*

Have tried all kinds of fad diets from the 13 Day Military Diet – I lost 10 lbs in 13 days – and gained it back in 10 days. Tried going on this diet where I had to drink this really yummy chocolate flavored powdered drink twice a day as a meal supplement. That didn’t last v long. Have even tried doing it the right way with an hour-long HIIT and clean-eating with calorie count for 3 months and looked and felt GREAT but then came vacation time and I stuffed my face with carbs and sugar.

KILL ME SOMEONE.

Now all this is making me depressed. I don’t like it. Not so much out of vanity though that’s a reason as well, but more because I am nearing forty and at this rate I will be a whale at 41 and will develop multiple diseases.

Truth is, I LOVE MY WORK. If I had the choice I would do nothing but work on all these cool projects all the time. But I also realize it’s bad for my mental and physical health. Entrepreneurship is cool and it’s OK to be passionate but you need to draw the line somewhere and find time for yourself. And I am struggling to do that.

Can someone help me with the stress, the eating, and the sedentary lifestyle, please?

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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NKOTB

If you don know what that acronym means you are too young and I hate you or you are too old and umm … ok you may stay.

Ran into this kid with a startup. Now you know that’s my favorite kind of person … young, ambitious, innovative, entrepreneurial. He was at a business meeting selling his startup services to this 4 star hotel. And guess what? I thought he was some plumber or other handyman sitting there to receive his check! Now plumbers and handymen are very respectable, hard working people.I am not dissing them. Most days I look like I clean public toilets for a living. But when you go to sell your idea you have to dress for the role. Period! So for example, if you are a professor at Stanford you can get away with a tshirt and shorts in class. If you do the same in Harvard,they will prolly dismiss you from the job on your very first day. You can go into McDonalds in your nightsuit but you have to dress in a certain way to dine at Avari.

So dahlin’ coolsters of today, if you wear slippers, shalwar kameez, and an untamed/unkempt beard to a serious business meeting with an important potential client, forget it. And you are actually being disrespectful.

yoda-meme

Similarly, this new company has started ops in Pakistan and been a year or so. Maybe less. Maybe a little more. But in a bid for rapid expansion to beat competitors to new opportunities they are making some serious mistakes. Such as … ok let me rewind a bit. The company provides on-demand cab services. They don’t own the cars but get them on contract basis from individuals and pay them on a monthly basis or something similar. Reason why I use them is because I felt very safe using the service. I travel a lot and am out of the house at odd hours like 11 pm or something. Now in Pakistan being female and taking a cab at night can be a risky business but I felt this company did lots of background checks on drivers and cars and had GPS so I could relax. Turns out I was wrong!

Yesterday I booked a car for 6:30 AM. The car that came had a green number plate that said Government of Punjab. Now using a government car as a rental is … you can understand … unethical. I was offended but my anger was geared more towards the government than the company. Turns out it was an illegal license plate not used by the government at all. So whoever’s car it was, it was indulging in an illegal activity. WHAT!!! Not cool.Just so not cool. Of course then the Special Monitoring Unit got involved and the company called couple of times. All I am saying is don’t think consumers are fools, and don’t take security for granted.

Ok thanks.

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Walk in the Park

Amazing what a little quiet time can do for a person. No, seriously. I mean I have been crazy busy past few months and when I am not busy it still feels like I am busy. do you know that feeling? Like you should be doing something but you aren’t and you are just sitting there staring at a screen or posting stupid social media updates waiting for you to recall what it is. Because you just can’t believe you are actually free.

Last weekend I took some time out and went out for a walk. At 4:30 PM in the blistering Lahore afternoon. i thought I wouldn’t last 10 minutes. But I actually stayed out for almost an hour and only came inside the house because my bratty kids wouldn’t stop calling for xyz. But that hour cleared up my mind like anything. For the first time in ages I was thinking clearly. The ideas I had been trying to work on for so long but that just appeared too complicated suddenly started to seem doable. Whoa! It was awesome.

Bottom line – MUST.TAKE.OUT.TIME.TO.EXERCISE. If not to lose some of that bulge around the waist from sitting and eating all day long then just to think clearly.

OK BYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

But I Want More

Man, from running a Google-check on my name and finding ZILCH to now when all this really cool stuff pops up, I AM LIVING MORE THAN MY DREAM. But I want more! Some would call this selfish. Others would tell me I was ungrateful. I say wanting more is what keeps us going.

So the latest idea is to start an IDEA Center. You know – a kind of, sort of, community center but more. Or maybe less. People can just walk in and know that everyone present is v open to hearing them out. Discussing things. No matter how quirky, crazy it may sound. Add to it a co-working space. You can just walk in and grab a bean bag (or just sit on the floor) and do whatever you need to do. Heck, spend the whole day if you want. No money required. But in return you have to give back in some way. I dunno – maybe listen out someone’s idea. Give a 2 hour workshop over the weekend. Offer to give pick and drop to the people. Bring food. Or tea. ANYTHING you can offer.

Invite people visiting town to spare some time and come meet our people. Slowly add a library. A tiny cafe where tea costs Rs 20 ($2) and a plate of samosa with chutney is Rs 30 ($30). Cheap and fun and useful place for people of all ages to just hang out. If we feel the place is getting crowded, we have a HOUSEFULL sign displayed.

Please, let’s do this. It would be so much fun. And it’s not even that expensive. All I need is 3 months of uninterrupted time to work on this. HAHAHA – that made me laugh – not happening any time soon. But hey, if you are up for it and SERIOUSLY up for some hard as s*** work that pays you ZERO in monetary terms in the short run, COME OVER.

Eeeeeeeeeeeee

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The Promise is Fulfilled

So all of you now don’t go and die (Translated from “Ab saray maro mat”). I promised you photographs and photographs though shalt get.

 

 

 

 

A Whole Year!

It’s been a whole year since I last posted anything here. I am surprised because I thought it had been much longer. Good to see some loyal fans have been visiting the place. Shows I’ve been missed. Here is why I stopped.

I am famous. Well, kind of. People in Pakistan know me. Particularly in the tech industry. And I also say the most ridiculous of things. If a thought comes into my mind I tend to blurt it out. If I get a feeling, a vibe, I say it. If I have an opinion, again, I don’t keep it to myself. Previously it was just me those things would hurt (or benefit!). Not any more.

Since last year, here is what has happened:

  • I became a World Bank Consultant
  • I joined Enclude Pakistan as a Senior Consultant on Sustainable Business Practices and am working on WomenX, a training program for existing women entrepreneurs to help them scale up
  • Was invited to the APrIGF in Taipei and attended a workshop on Women Human Rights
  • Was spoken of very highly in a New York Times bestseller
  • Am speaking soon at a UN – ISOC event

So I am all kinds of hoitey toitey cool NGO auntie who pretends to know tech. And then some. *pictures to be followed*

Now if I say the things I want to say it would get me into a whole lot of trouble. I am not giving you details. But if you REALLY want to know, oh my dahlin’ what long hours of juicy gossip and heartbreaking, disappointing, lose-my-faith-in-humanity chats we could have. But I can’t spill it on the blog. Just trust me on that one. So I have been keeping quiet. But something made me come back here.

Few weeks back the team from UpWork contacted me. They wanted to speak to me about some program I might be interested in. And half way through the call I couldn’t keep it together any more. The tears just started pouring no matter how hard I tried to stop. It took me back to the early years working on oDesk. Staying up all night just so I was one of the first 5 people to bid on a project that just paid $2 for essays that took me hours to finish. When no one believed online work was real. That you could work on a computer using the Internet and could actually get paid for it. That I wasn’t up to no good during those late nights but was actually working till my fingers hurt so bad I couldn’t straighten them out. When my biggest dream was to somehow make $500 per month.

And here were people from that platform talking to me, sharing jokes, ideas, possibilities! Phew …. *deep breaths*. Nothing has been as big a win as this.

Can I be a little grown up-ish and say something? Oh what the hell – I don’t need your permission. I forgot it was my blog. 😛

Don’t put limits on your dreams. No matter how crazy they may be. People will tear you down, poison you to your very soul with their doubts and jeers and negativity, but don’t give up. It’s OK to go slow. Take your time. Breathe! Hide, if you need to. Escape, when you need to. It’s OK to do that for a while. But always come back and continue.

This is me coming straight from the heart.

In other random news, I finally visited Hunza. Met the current CEO, Kamal. And had a CRAZY FUN TIME. Was interviewed for a cover page story of an urdu newspaper’s women edition. Made me realize the power of Urdu newspapers – WDL’s official number rang incessantly. BTW our official number is 0336-WDL-0-WDL. Cool, right? 😀 Finally bought a MacBook Pro. Yes, no more a poor woman. 😀 I have gained enough weight to make 3 plus size models from.

 

And sorry – Facebook is taking forever to load pictures and I am losing patience. Later! Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

And then everyone WINS!

Almost SEVEN years! Time does fly – takes several breaks to crap on you – but it flies. Women’s Digital League started as FIRST and ONLY social enterprise of its’ kind promoting and providing online computer-based work to Pakistani service providers. Of course, we were gender-biased and still are. But regardless of that, we were the pioneers. At a time when people scoffed at the idea, closed doors in my face, mocked me, gave friendly advises on NOT continuing with it and continuing with my teaching career WDL kept plodding away. SLOW AND STEADY never made sense to me until WDL.

Today, WDL has several franchising offers, a World Bank grant under its belt, recognition on several platforms including FORBES and ASHOKA *insert crazy blood-curdling excited screams*. WE WERE EVEN ON MASHABLE before Mashable decided to post articles on male health (ahem) and 9 year olds getting all excited about meeting Trump.

UN, WB, USAID, investors and VCs are pouring in Alahmdulillah (easy – I am not detonating anything – merely praising God for everything! Gosh, peeps! *eyeroll). I have offers from people in other countries to expand there. It’s just crazy.

But what makes me really happy is that FINALLY this crazy idea is being taken up by others who are MAD and implemented. My mission was always to have people believe and come into the field. It was lonely being the only one. I am so excited to see new faces doing incredible work creating digital livelihoods. Hundreds and thousands of people trained throughout the country in working online doing graphics, WordPress, social media, article writing, data entry … the awesome interactions taking place, the stories coming up … it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Currently, the grant we received from WB back in April 2015 for just one training has been extended and we are now conducting 10 trainings over a period of 12 months. Who would have thought! World Bank hiring me as a consultant to run a digital livelihood program! RIDICULOUS!

There is this quote by Gandhi I found a while ago and have been in love since finding out;

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Giving up is never an option. Perseverance always pays off and that’s the quality of an entrepreneur. Tell you the truth, just last week I broke down while on my way to a meeting. When I say broke down I mean I actually sobbed in the backseat of a rental with a driver who was a complete stranger. Decided I didn’t want to attend the meeting, didn’t want to have anything to do with WDL and that I just couldn’t handle it any more. Some would argue I shouldn’t be making this pubic because it would make people hesitant in investing in WDL or me but WHAT THE HELL. Since when have I ever played it by the rules.

Anyhoo what I was trying to say is that Gandhi forgot one thing. He forgot to mention … “And in the end everyone wins” because when you are doing good in whatever way you are actually multiplying the effect.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeee